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Legal historians have long emphasized the role courts played in promoting the development of a market society in colonial America. Indeed, judicial enforcement of debt agreements and other contractual obligations has been viewed as the central and most important aspect of government promotion of the nascent colonial economy. Nevertheless, there has been substantial disagreement about the extent of colonial economic development and about colonists' attitudes toward markets and commercialism. Judges have been characterized in contrasting terms as bulwarks of pre-industrial cultural norms impeding development or as knowing catalysts of commercial transformation. Legal historians, however, have universally (if implicitly) agreed that focusing on the court system and judicial decisionmaking is the best means of assessing the role of law in economic development.

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