The Civil War and Reconstruction utterly transformed American society. This chapter combines the traditional work of legal history with the new approaches that contemplate law from the perspective of social, cultural, and economic history. It focuses on one central argument: the Civil War forced the nation to confront slavery, and talks about the changes during the war years that took the nation in new legal directions afterward. The chapter deals with the Reconstruction, but takes the analysis beyond the brief formal span of that period and into the last decades of the nineteenth century. It traces the legal difficulties presented by emancipation, which necessitated the integration of a formerly enslaved population into the legal order. The period was one of crisis, which forced a wide range of Americans to debate the relationship between people and law with a degree of openness and readiness for innovation that has been rare in the nation's history.