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"My notion in writing these articles," Holmes told a friend, speaking of the American Law Review pieces on which he later based his lectures on The Common Law, "is to take up from time to time the cardinal principles and conceptions of the law and make a new and more fundamental analysis of them - For the purpose of constructing a new Jurisprudence, or New First Book of the law." Holmes' declaration of intent makes explicit what it is hard for a reader of The Common Law to doubt: The work is primarily one of legal theory with excursions into legal history to support the theory. Thus it is as a work of theory and not of history that The Common Law must be assessed.

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