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Professor Nelson's Americanization of the Common Law records the conclusions of a mighty research project. The author has undertaken a comprehensive account of the changes in Massachusetts law over a period of 70 years. Anyone who has ever been tempted to tackle a project of this magnitude has been humbled quickly enough by the immense problems of assembling the sources. Legal records, especially those of the colonial period, are typically mountainous in bulk, difficult of access and untracked by previous researchers. Nelson has overcome this obstacle, however: he has read not only all the published case reports and statutes for his period, but also "all available manuscript material, including unpublished judicial opinions, lawyers' notes, and, most commonly, records of pleadings, judgments, and other papers incorporated into official court files" (p. vii). This exhaustive coverage of the sources means that when Nelson mentions creditors' remedies or pleading rules, we can be extraordinarily confident that he is not guessing the shape of a larger bulk, but knows the thing itself; we learn what there is to know. Moreover, this mass of detail has been succinctly and lucidly reported.
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