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Law in Early America  

Sally Hadden

Law in early America came from many sources. To focus exclusively on the English common law excludes other vital sources including (but not limited to) civil law, canon law, lex mercatoria (the law merchant), and custom. Also, the number of sources increases the farther back in time one goes and the greater the geographic area under consideration. By the 18th century, common law had come to dominate, but not snuff out, other competing legal traditions, in part due to the numerical, political, military, and linguistic advantages of its users. English colonists were well-acquainted with the common law, but after arriving in the New World, the process of adaptation to new experiences and new surroundings meant that English common law would undergo numerous alterations. Colonists in early America had to create legal explanations for the dispossession of Native American land and the appropriation of labor by enslaved Native Americans and Africans. Their colonial charters provided that all colonial law must conform to English law, but deviations began to appear in several areas almost from the first moment of colonization. When controversies arose within the colonies, not all disagreements were settled in courts: churches and merchants provided alternative settings to arbitrate disputes. In part, other groups provided mediation because there were so few trained lawyers and judges available in 17th-century colonies. By the 18th century, however, the number of trained practitioners increased, and the sophistication of legal knowledge in the colonies grew. The majority of legal work handled by colonial lawyers concerned contracts and property. Law and the language of rights became more widely used by early Americans as the English attempted to tighten their control over the colonists in the mid-18th century. Rights and law became firmly linked with the Revolution in the minds of Americans, so much so that law, rights, and the American Revolution continue to form an integral part of American national identity.

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Intellectual Property and Education  

John Willinsky

Concerns about intellectual property in education typically involve administrative interest in improving institutional compliance with copyright and patent laws. The focus on compliance, rather than on intellectual property as an area of educational inquiry for students raises two questions: Are educational institutions adequately preparing students (a) to participate in a global economy that is increasingly driven by intellectual property and (b) for a future in which the creation and distribution of intellectual property is being reshaped by the emerging digital era? The educational value of intellectual property begins, however, with history of the concept in which learning played a strong role in giving shape to the idea of text as an intangible good associated with distinct properties, rights, and responsibilities, with all of this taking place well before the 18th-century introduction of the modern concepts of copyright and patent law. In light of this history and its contemporary standing, intellectual property has much to offer as a way for students and teachers to gain insight into the nature of creative work in relation to private property and the public domain. While education benefits from exceptions made for “fair use” and other exemptions in copyright law, the digital era has seen the introduction of new intellectual property strategies that support the collective educational enterprise, including Creative Commons licensing, open educational resources, open access to research, and open source software. While intellectual property has played a small part in business education and composition classes in the past, a number of innovative programs now involve students in different approaches to balancing the private and public interests associated with this concept, suggesting the value that intellectual property holds, as a teachable topic, for the curriculum and for thinking, more broadly, about education’s role as a public good.

Article

Mysticism in Martin Luther’s Development and Thoughts  

Volker Leppin

Martin Luther’s spiritual and theological development was deeply rooted in mystical traditions. During his early years as an Augustinian friar, he experienced mystical visions following the paths of Dionysian mysticism, while a few years later he was inspired by Ps-Bonaventure, Bernard of Clairvaux, and John Tauler. His early theology of penitence, as expressed in the Ninety-five Theses, derived from these sources, as did his description of justification in the image of bride and bridegroom in his tract On the Liberty of a Christian. Even more so, central elements in his theology were shaped by mystical influences, including his distinction between Law and Gospel, the doctrine of justification, and the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Thus, Luther’s theology should be seen as a reception and development deriving from the mystical discourse of the later Middle Ages.

Article

Actor-Network Theory  

T. Hugh Crawford

Actor-network theory (ANT) is a methodology developed in the 1980s by scholars working primarily in the sociology of science and technology. It is a novel approach as it attempts to redefine actors not so much as willful or intentional agents but instead as any entity—human or nonhuman—that in some way influences or perturbs the activity of a techno-social system. Most effective when examining limited systems such as ship navigation, electrical network failures, and the like, ANT resists large generalizations and categories, including the very notion of the “social” which, according to actor-network theorists, is never an explanation but instead is that which must be explained. Well into the 21st century, practitioners have both embraced and critiqued ANT, but it remains a useful form of inquiry.