Trials of the Century
An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture and the Law
by Scott P. Johnson
October 2010, 778pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-59884-261-6
$208, £160, 181€, A285
eBook Available: 978-1-59884-262-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election because she was a woman. She was found guilty the following year and fined $100—a fine she never paid. This is just one of the famous trials that resonates through history, reminding us of historical forces, social norms, and national bias.

This comprehensive set of essays documents the most important criminal, civil, and political trials in the United States from colonial times to the present, examining their impact on both legal history and popular culture.

Crime and punishment are of perennial interest across the human species. Trials of the Century: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture and the Law examines some of the most important (and infamous) cases in American history, placing them in both historical and legal context. Among the landmark cases considered in these two volumes are the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, and the O.J. Simpson murder trial. A number of civil lawsuits and political trials are also included, such as the impeachment trials of Presidents Andrew Johnson and William Jefferson Clinton.

Entries in the encyclopedia detail the events leading to each trial and introduce the key players, with a focus on judges, lawyers, witnesses, defendants, victims, media, and the public. In addition, the aftermath of the trial and its impact are analyzed from a scholarly, yet straightforward, perspective, emphasizing how the trial affected the law and society at large.


  • Chronological essays on American "trials of the century" from the colonial period to the modern era
  • A chronology of famous cases and U.S. legal development
  • An introductory essay on the links between law and pop culture
  • Case profiles for selected cases placing them in context
  • Biographies of key figures
  • A bibliography of literature from the fields of law, politics, and popular culture
Scott P. Johnson, PhD, is associate professor of political science, coordinator of the Law and Society program, and pre-law advisor at Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD. Dr. Johnson has published numerous articles in Judicature, West Virginia Law Review, New England Law Review, South Texas Law Review, Pierce Law Review, and Akron Law Review. Dr. Johnson's publications have covered such topics as U.S. Supreme Court justices and their voting behavior, the presidential pardon power, the right to privacy, political psychology, and criminal defendants' rights.


Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2011—Choice, January 1, 2012


"Recommended for nonlegal professionals and general interest readers needing to familiarize themselves with historical elements rather than case law."—Library Journal, January 1, 2011

"The writing is fluid and engaging, and will add significantly to students’ understanding of the topics covered."—School Library Journal, April 1, 2011

"This two-volume set should come with a warning label: 'Highly addictive.' Anyone who is remotely interested in society and the laws of the land will enjoy this comprehensive work. . . . The writer's style will capture readers' interest from the first page, and some readers may need to remind themselves that this is actually a reference work. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice, April 1, 2011
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