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Thursday, May 9, 2024

New Law Library Digital Resource: Historical Foundations of First-Year Law School Cases

The University of Minnesota Law Library is pleased to announce the release of an exciting new digital resource, Classic Cases: Historical Foundations of First-Year Law School Cases.  It is also available through the link here, as part of the Law Library's growing digital collections.

Early in their legal education, law school students are introduced to foundational cases that highlight key doctrines of historical and current law, including classics such as Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad (1924), Hadley v. Baxendale (1854), and the complex rule against perpetuities from The Duke of Norfolk’s Case (1682). The reasoning and authorities relied on in these cases, drawn from the pages of first-year casebooks, offer valuable insight into the ways that lawyers have argued and judges have decided cases for centuries.


Classic Cases: Historical Foundations of First-Year Law School Cases features summaries of cases in five areas of law: constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. Following these summaries are discussions of selected historical precedents and authorities which contextualize the rulings and their contemporary frameworks.


The classic cases and their selected citations include the corresponding case reports and links to relevant volumes in the Law Library’s collections. The site also features further bibliography, images, and links to additional information. A timeline for the classic cases furnishes visual and chronological context. Researchers and students are encouraged to use the site to learn more about the development of the common law tradition. Of particular note, this site provides access to scans from selected volumes from the Library’s rich Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection. These showcase the depth of the historical legal resources found in the Law Library’s Stefan A. Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center.  


Classic Cases: Historical Foundations of First-Year Law School Cases was supervised by Michael Hannon '98, Associate Director for Access Services & Digital Initiatives, and Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections, with the invaluable assistance of law students Rachel Canoun ‘24, Mason Medeiros ‘22, Loren Olson ‘26, and Alec Shaw ‘19, who wrote and edited the case summaries. Law Library colleagues Joy Brown, Digital Technologist, designed and built the digital site, and Sophia Charbonneau, Special Collections Assistant, assembled the materials featured on it, as well as provided editing and proofreading.


For more information about the digital site, please contact Ryan Greenwood (612-625-7323; rgreenwo@umn.edu).

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