Toward a Legal History of the Great Plains
John R. Wunder
Regional history as a methodological concept is strong in the American history tradition. Some would date its origin with Frederick Jackson Turner's famous frontier thesis essay and his ideas about section and region. In the modern period after World War II historians of early America were the first to embrace model case studies to understand the notion of community in British colonial America, and these concepts have since been applied by other historians to other times, regions, and topical frameworks.
Similarly, the history of American law has undergone a transformation away from rote listings and analyses of statutory law and legislative debate. Modern legal historiography is instead methodologically derived from quantitative and qualitative case studies and synopses of regional and national legal cultures. Social, economic, and political history are viewed within the history of law and region in an attempt to understand how law was perceived and how it functioned.
While the study of American legal history in a modern sense is only about fifty years old, New Western History is even more youthful, being in existence for only two decades. According to Richard White, New Western History "is simply the aggregation of studies of race, gender, class, community, economic dependency, and the environment in the West." 1 New