Family, Law, and Inheritance in America: A Social and Legal History of Nineteenth Century Kentucky (Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and S
By: Yvonne Pitts (author)Hardback
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Yvonne Pitts explores inheritance practices by focusing on nineteenth-century testamentary capacity trials in Kentucky in which disinherited family members challenged relatives' wills. These disappointed heirs claimed that their departed relative lacked the capacity required to write a valid will. These inheritance disputes criss-crossed a variety of legal and cultural terrains, including ordinary people's understandings of what constituted insanity and justice, medical experts' attempts to infuse law with science, and the independence claims of women. Pitts uncovers the contradictions in the body of law that explicitly protected free will while simultaneously reinforcing the primacy of blood in mediating claims to inherited property. By anchoring the study in local communities and the texts of elite jurists, Pitts demonstrates that 'capacity' was a term laden with legal meaning and competing communal values about family, race relations and rationality. These concepts evolved as Kentucky transitioned from a conflicted border state with slaves to a developing free-labor, industrializing economy.
Yvonne Pitts is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Purdue University. She received a Filson Fellowship at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, and has been a fellow at J. Willard Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Dr Pitts has been published in The Journal of Women's History.
Introduction; 1. 'Parental justice': inheritance and obligation in families; 2. 'My black family': manumissions and freedom in inheritance disputes; 3. The arbiters of sanity: medical experts and jurists; 4. Physical impairments and degenerate minds: the body as evidence; 5. A special power: women's testamentary capacity; Epilogue.
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- ID: 9781107035508
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