Family History: Inside and Out

The twenty-first century has seen the dawn of a new era of the family, an era that has its roots in the twentieth. Many of the social and scientific phenomena of our time – same-sex couples, in vitro fertilization, single-parent families, international adoption – have inspired changes in the law. Legal change has encompassed both constitutional doctrine and statutory innovations, from landmark Supreme Court decisions articulating a right to procreate (or not), a liberty interest in the care, custody, and control of one’s children, and even a right to marry, to state no-fault divorce statutes that have fundamentally changed the way married couples dissolve their legal relationships. But thus far, no legal scholar has attempted to write a comprehensive history of twentieth-century family law. To be sure, many excellent books have been written on particular aspects of the twentieth-century story. Inside the Castle: Law and the Family in 20th Century America, by Joanna Grossman and Lawrence Friedman, however, is the first book to my knowledge that attempts to provide a comprehensive social history of twentieth-century family law in the United States. The goal that Inside the Castle articulates is “to look inside the home, inside the castle; to map a century’s worth of dynamic change” (p. 22). The central claim of the book is that the rapid social change that occurred during the twentieth century forced the law to adapt in correspondingly sweeping ways.