Contracts Scholarship in the Age of Anthology

In the first part of this article, I trace the history of the Age. I observe that for nearly forty years, from 1881 to the time of World War I, there was a significant decline in contracts scholarship and conclude that the principal explanation for these lean years lies in the shift in scholars’ focus from an audience of practitioners to one of students that resulted from the introduction of the case method. In the second part of the article, I look at the way in which the anthologists wielded the considerable influence that each had when only a few contracts casebooks dominated the market. I consider also such matters as their heavy emphasis on English cases, their exclusion of such major topics as remedies, and their abstinence from the use of anything other than cases. I conclude that although these early anthologists were blatant in their attempts to simplify and to rationalize the state of contract law, their espousal of particular doctrines was more restrained and subtle. In the third and final part of the article, I examine the way in which these early anthologists espoused particular doctrines in two specific and related areas: reliance on an offer of a unilateral contract and reliance on a gratuitous promise. I conclude that though the anthologies reflected the anthologists’ views on these matters, the anthologies themselves had little impact on the development of doctrine.