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research • scholarship • creative activity

Spring 2012

“Lone Star Law: A Legal History of Texas”

TTU Press author writes book on the history of Texas law for readers outside the legal field

by Rachel L. Pierce

Lone Star Law: A Legal History of Texas

When he set out to write a comprehensive legal history about the state of Texas, law professor Michael Ariens knew it would be no small task. But he was up for the challenge, and “Lone Star Law: A Legal History of Texas” is the result of his more than five years of research.

The idea for the book emerged from an encounter with Noel Parsons, the former editor of Texas Tech University Press (TTU Press). Parsons’ pitch inspired Ariens to take on the project, and his work offers a wide-reaching historical view of the laws in Texas, starting from the state’s birth as a Spanish colony through the present day.

“I was doing some work on Texas legal history when I was originally approached by Noel,” Ariens recalled. “He asked me if I considered doing not just individual stories but an entire book–and that sparked my imagination. Once it sparked my imagination, I thought that this would be a really interesting project.”

Ariens teaches law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, specializing in the areas of legal history, constitutional law and the legal profession. He wrote “Lone Star Law” for readers outside the legal field, however, to convey the “human story” of Texas’ legal system, particularly the role of culture in shaping the state’s laws. Ariens engages readers’ attentions by using interlocking stories that focus on matters of property, business, family, and criminal and civil harms, as well as on the progression of the legal profession in Texas. Also, he minimizes legal jargon and explains concepts that are key to understanding Texas’ jurisprudential history.

Meet the Author

Michael Ariens

Michael Ariens is a professor of law and director of faculty scholarship at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Ariens maintains an informational website, michaelariens.com, for students and others interested in various areas of law.


“Lone Star Law” was published in October 2011 by the Texas Tech University Press. To learn more about the book, its author or to purchase a copy, visit TTUPress.org.

“I thought it was important that, to interest people in reading the book, they understand these are stories about human beings, not stories about abstract laws and legal decisions; “Lone Star Law” is about how law affects people,” he said. “The more I looked at the way law changed over time in Texas, the more I became convinced that society’s ideas and beliefs–its culture–has a much greater impact on what the legal system is or will become, than in the opposite direction.”

In March the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) awarded “Lone Star Law” with the 2011 Tullis Memorial Prize for Best Book on Texas History. Previous award recipients have written about an assortment of issues in agriculture, education, politics, racial equality and women’s history. Ariens said he feels very honored and deeply humbled by the recognition from TSHA.

“When I received word from the Texas State Historical Association, I went online and looked at the previous winners, and I’m not sure I belong in that company, but I’ll take it nonetheless,” he said. “I’m very happy that that the book’s been acknowledged by the TSHA, which is a highly, highly regarded organization.”

Additionally, “Lone Star Law” was selected for the 2012 Ray and Pat Browne Award for the Best Reference/Primary Source Work published in 2011 from the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association, an academic organization committed to the study of popular culture.

“The lure of Texas was its vast expanses of land, millions and millions of acres of land available for settlers. The opening of Texas to Americans in the early 1820s offered settlers the opportunity to purchase some of that land more cheaply than comparable land in the United States. . . It would take several generations before the wealth created through minerals, particularly oil and gas, would be known and by that time the state of Texas eschewed it claims to most minerals found on lands once part of the public domain. For most of Texas history, wealth has come from ownership of land.”

— Excerpt from “Lone Star Law: A Legal History of Texas”

Rachel L. Pierce is a Senior Editor in the Office of the Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University.

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Nov 24, 2015