The Introduction outlines the book’s argument, structure, and source base. It provides an overview of the distinction between the adversarial and inquisitorial models of procedure. So too, it explores the problem of methodology, rejecting the prevailing tendency among legal historians to insist on a necessary opposition between internalist and externalist approaches. While historians of procedure have tended to embrace internalism, the methodology pursued in this book combines elements of both approaches. As the Introduction details, the book explains the American turn toward adversarialism partly in relation to contemporary developments within the law. Key among these is the remarkable fact (neglected by scholars to date) that the category of “procedure” emerged only around the mid-nineteenth century. But so, too, the book adopts an externalist perspective, seeking to relate procedural change to the grand arc of nineteenth-century American history—including such fundamental developments as democratization, the market revolution, religious revivalism, and Reconstruction. Debates over the nature and purposes of procedure thus ended up playing a key role in defining not only American law, but also its social structures and values, and indeed national identity as a whole.
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