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The Death of Contract, 1974 Wisconsin Law Review 1216 (1974)


The Death of Contract collects Professor Gilmore's lectures given at Ohio State University Law School in 1970, with footnotes added to provide further explanation, qualification, and documentation. It is easy to tell that these were lectures, not because of their tone of urbane chattiness (Gilmore's gift of style makes some of his most technical work sound like Talleyrand's table talk), but because of the looseness of their design and casualness of their execution. The speaker frequently drops the thread of his narrative to break into anecdote or digression and, when he again picks up the narrative, it is not always by the same thread. But for all their informality these lectures are of extraordinary interest. They tell us how a great commercial lawyer (who is also a legal historian and contracts casebook editor) views what happened to the law of contract in the 20th century. Though expounded with rare felicity and supported by an unusual breadth of historical learning, this perspective is, I believe, a common one among scholars of contract law. I shall be arguing here that it is also a fundamentally distorted one-not so much erroneous as myopic. But first, a summary of the book.

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