The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America

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Univ of North Carolina Press, Nov 9, 2000 - History - 408 pages
Much of today's political rhetoric decries the welfare state and our maze of government regulations. Critics hark back to a time before the state intervened so directly in citizens' lives. In The People's Welfare, William Novak refutes this vision of a stateless past by documenting America's long history of government regulation in the areas of public safety, political economy, public property, morality, and public health. Challenging the myth of American individualism, Novak recovers a distinctive nineteenth-century commitment to shared obligations and public duties in a well-regulated society. Novak explores the by-laws, ordinances, statutes, and common law restrictions that regulated almost every aspect of America's society and economy, including fire regulations, inspection and licensing rules, fair marketplace laws, the moral policing of prostitution and drunkenness, and health and sanitary codes. Based on a reading of more than one thousand court cases in addition to the leading legal and political texts of the nineteenth century, The People's Welfare demonstrates the deep roots of regulation in America and offers a startling reinterpretation of the history of American governance.


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User Review  - DarthDeverell - LibraryThing

William J. Novak’s The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth Century America explores the role of law in the early republic and how it defined public spaces and personal liberty. Novak ... Read full review

The people's welfare: law and regulation in nineteenth-century America

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Novak (history, Univ. of Chicago) has produced an extraordinarily important historical work on American government regulation in the 19th century. In contradiction to previous accounts of American ... Read full review


Governance Police and American Liberal Mythology
The Common Law Vision of a WellRegulated Society
Public Safety Fire and the Relative Right of Property
Public Economy The WellOrdered Market
Public Ways The Legal Construction of Public Space
Public Morality Disorderly Houses and Demon Rum
Public Health Quarantine Noxious Trades and Medical Police
The Invention of American Constitutional Law
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About the author (2000)

William J. Novak is associate professor of history at the University of Chicago.

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