On three October afternoons in the fall of 1974, Grant Gilmore, a Sterling Professor of Law at Yale, delivered his Storrs Lectures, the lecture series at Yale Law School whose speakers had included Roscoe Pound, Lon Fuller, and Benjamin Cardozo. Gilmore was a magisterial scholar: the author of a prize-winning treatise, Security Interests in Personal Property, and what remains the leading treatise on admiralty law; he was the Chief Reporter and draftsman for Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code; and his PhD on French poet and critic Stéphane Mallarmé had led to an appointment at Yale College before he moved on to study law.
Professor Gilmore's Storrs Lectures were titled "The Ages of American Law." Following Karl Llewellyn, Gilmore divided American legal history into three distinct eras. The Age of Discovery roughly spanned the years from the mid-eighteenth century through the Civil War, during which the United States grandly constructed a new legal edifice upon the foundations of the English common law. The Age of Faith lasted from the Civil War through World War I, and was notable for the Olympian status it accorded law and its demigods, including Christopher Columbus Langdell and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Langdell believed that law was a science from which scientific truths could be derived, and even the skeptical Holmes, according to Gilmore, refined and judicialized Langdellianism.
After that came the Age of Anxiety, Gilmore's own era, an Age when legal realism gnawed through the core assumptions of the Age of Faith and the nation groped unsuccessfully for new creeds to replace them. Gilmore's lectures satisfied and mesmerized their audience, and they were soon fashioned into a book, also titled The Ages of American Law, which became a foundational text for introducing law students to American legal studies.
In attendance at the 1974 Storrs Lectures was Philip Bobbitt, at the time Professor Gilmore's student and advisee, now a professor at Columbia Law School. As an Article Editor for the Yale Law Journal, Bobbitt wrote an Introduction to the first of Gilmore's lectures when the Journal published it later that year. In the Feature that follows, which will appear in adapted form as the final chapter in a new edition of The Ages of American Law published by the Yale University Press, Professor Bobbitt refracts American legal history since the 1974 Storrs Lectures through the lens of Gilmore's lectures.
Law | Legal History
Philip C. Bobbitt,
The Age of Consent,
Yale L. J.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/229