George Lee Haskins

University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 134, No. 1 (December 1985), pp. 19-20


I am first aware of having met George Lee Haskins in 1974, but long before that he and his family were close friends of mine. When I was a teenager the first book of historical scholarship to bedazzle me was The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century by his father, Charles Homer Haskins. I was enthralled by, and envied, the depth, breadth, and accuracy of his scholarship. Rather later, rummaging through the stacks of the Glasgow University Library I came across George's own Law and Authority in Early Massachusetts. Again, I was dazzled, again by the scholarship. This book, too, opened up new vistas for me. It was the first time I had read a law book that set law in its political, religious, economic, and historical context. It was, in fact, the first book of its kind in America and, I believe, in the world. I still think it the most perceptive and informative book on any aspect of American legal history. I learnt a great deal from it and it formed the basis of a chapter of my book Legal Transplants which George claims is my best work. On that one point alone, I often wonder about his objectivity. What cannot be stressed too much, though, is that, recognized by all or not, it was that book that set the fashion for all subsequent American legal history.