This introductory chapter sets out the focus the book, which is a case-study in the legal history of early industrial economy in England. It concerns fifty years of powerful dialectical exchange between the world's first steam railway companies and an ancient and largely unreformed system of law and lawyering. The book advances two main arguments. The first is that English common law and common law lawyers had a profound and largely negative impact on the rise and development of the steam railway industry. The second argument is that the engagement of the old common law system with the new English railway industry produced a two-directional set of historical effects. As law, legal ideas, and processes ‘captured’ railway enterprise, so too were they dramatically altered by the new industry's huge capacity to generate legal work, conflict, and opportunity. An overview of the two parts of the book is also presented.
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