As we've mentioned on the blog in the past, it is never to early to start working on those fall fellowship applications. Last year's round-up of blog links with fellowship resources and advice is here.
Law profs should take a look at How to Get a Fellowship: Tips for Law Faculty. More advice for everyone is here.
To find relevant fellowships, check out the H-Net list. Specialized fellowships relevant for legal historians are often mentioned on LHB, but we don't note every fellowship every year. This post explains how you can use the blog as a resource to find past posts about fellowships.
My list of essential elements for your proposal:
a. the proposal has a thesis (or hypothesis), clearly stated.Since every fall I always hear from lots of scholars who are all applying for the very same thing, please keep in mind: if you're applying for one fellowship, you should apply for everything relevant you can find (for your references, the first letter is a lot of work; the rest are easy). You're much more likely to be competitive for specific fellowships relevant to your research (e.g. be sure to look for fellowships from the presidential libraries if you need to use their archives). And success with those fellowships helps you build a record for the next project, when you might be more successful with the ones the rest of the academic world is competing for.
b. the proposal outlines research that will produce, or has produced, evidence to support or refute the thesis. Include a timeline for research.
c. the proposal makes clear that the researcher is qualified to accomplish this project, and has a track record of getting work like this done.
d. briefly describe the relevant literature, and explain why your project is original and what contribution you are making.
e. the proposal helps the non-specialist reader to see why this project is important, and why this foundation/program should want to fund it.
f. the proposal is well-written, so that the proposal itself demonstrates the researcher's skills at communicating her/his ideas.
g. request letters of recommendation from people who can speak to your talents and the impact of your work, but who are not your current colleagues.