“ Using numerous case records from volost courts from 1905 to 1917, Burbank (New York Univ.) argues that the peasants who judged and were judged in these courts showed notable respect for law and legal procedure. The panel of judges, a small jury in the author's thinking, was guided by reason, a concern for documentary proof, and the evidence of witnesses, the hallmarks of the legal order that went unrecognized by contemporary educated society. Burbank believes that the disparagement of peasant justice as disorderly, corrupt, and ignorant was based on data from the 19th century. But she also disagrees with those who see peasant justice as a protest against the state and its laws. Her argument is persuasive, especially when she presents peasants as individuals rather than exemplars of a class. Only in passing does she suggest that her peasant actors may have been more enterprising than others. Although Burbank disagrees with critics of peasant justice, their data for the 19th century is also persuasive. Moreover, readers may not share the author's perplexity that her law-abiding, but admittedly uncivil, peasants made a revolution in 1917. But they should read her book. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.”
— D. Balmuth, emeritus, Skidmore College , 2005jun CHOICE.
“A pathbreaking look at the legal culture of Russian peasants in the closing years of the Russian Empire. Contrary to prevailing conceptions of peasants as backward and ignorant, Burbank's study of court records reveals engaged rural citizens who valued order in their communities and made use of state courts to seek justice.”