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Home > Catalog > Law and the Borders of Belonging in the Long Nineteenth Century United States
Law and the Borders of Belonging in the Long Nineteenth Century United States


  • 1 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 256 pages
  • Size: 216 x 138 mm
  • Weight: 0.3 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521152259)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published March 2010

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$26.99 (G)

For more than a generation, historians and legal scholars have documented inequalities at the heart of American law and daily life and exposed inconsistencies in the generic category of “American citizenship.” Welke draws on that wealth of historical, legal, and theoretical scholarship to offer a new paradigm of liberal selfhood and citizenship from the founding of the United States through the 1920s. Law and the Borders of Belonging questions understanding this period through a progressive narrative of expanding rights, revealing that it was characterized instead by a sustained commitment to borders of belonging of liberal selfhood, citizenship, and nation in which able white men’s privilege depended on the subject status of disabled persons, racialized others, and women. Welke’s conclusions pose challenging questions about the modern liberal democratic state that extend well beyond the temporal and geographic boundaries of the long nineteenth century United States.


Introduction; 1. Constructing a universal legal person: able white manhood; 2. Subjects of law: disabled persons, racialized others, and women; 3. Borders: resistance, defense, structure, and ideology; Conclusion: abled, racialized, and gendered power in the making of the twentieth-century American state; Coda.


“A book that ‘every historian should read’ is a rare phenomenon, but in my estimation this is one of them. Barbara Young Welke’s remarkable achievement is to say something original and unexpected about race and gender. By setting both in relation to disability, she shows how these intertwined categories of identity have profoundly shaped the modern understanding of citizenship and legal personhood. That she does so in lucid and often powerful prose is icing on the cake.” – Douglas Baynton, University of Iowa

“In this extraordinary book, Barbara Young Welke embraces a revolution in historical understanding that has been elusive, even though in some ways it has long been right before our eyes. Moving past old paradigms and writing with clarity, confidence, and authority, she offers a fresh understanding of the meanings of U.S. citizenship and a truly original narrative of social change in the United States from the founding generation to World War I.” – Linda Kerber, University of Iowa

“With clarity and concision, Barbara Young Welke shows the complex ways in which American law drew the lines of membership and citizenship according to physical and mental ability, race, and gender. This is a book of enormous sweep, power, and humanity.” – Mae M. Ngai, Columbia University

“Passionate, provocative, powerful: this splendid book should be required reading for everyone who wants to know anything about the history of American law.” – Peggy Pascoe, author of What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America

"This is a short book with big ideas....powerful analysis leaves no doubt that significant shifts occurred withing American legal history, and Welke's interpretive framework...will be pivotal in shaping future inquiries." - Lucy Salyer, American Historical Review

"Law and the Borders of Belonging shows the origins of that dynamic, the critical role of law in that process, the enduring legacies for American political development of conceptual choices made during the early republic, and the path Americans will have to travel to disentangle this history." -Christopher Capozzola, The Journal of American History

"Law and the Borders of Belonging discusses the parameters of legal inclusion and exclusion during a formative phase of American history." -Katharine Wrobel, CANADIAN WOMANSTUDIES/LES CAHIERS DE LAFEMME

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