Here’s an update on the raw data that can be culled from the AALS Directory's list of Law Teachers by Subject. Between 1931 (the first year that the Directory provided subject of interest listings) and 1950 the average number of law teachers expressing interest in legal history was pretty stable at 21. In the 1950s the average increases modestly to 36, and in the 1960s to 55. The 1970s see the first big jump, to 180. Growth thereafter is pretty steady: 270 in the 1980s, 384 in the 1990s, and 426 in the decade beginning 2000. These numbers accord quite well with my general sense of when interest in legal history “took off” and what the interest curve has looked like over time.
Some words of caution. First, these are very simple numbers – I do not yet have counts on the number of law teachers expressing interest across all subjects, so we do not yet know to what extent growth of interest in legal history is simply a factor of growth in the overall number of expressions of interest in all subjects registered by law teachers. Second between 1940 and the early 1960s the Directory’s coverage of subjects of interest is decidedly spotty. Between 1940 and 1961 there are only eight listings – six in the 1940s and two in the 1950s. Still, it is unlikely that the absence of figures for most of the 1950s conceals any dramatic variation, because the numbers for the early 1960s fall below the average of the two listings for the 1950s.
Some points of interest. The early 1930s shows a jump upward in interest that peters out quickly. The rapid growth in the 1970s appears to begin in 1967. And throughout there are quite marked fluctuations above and below the secular trend line.
The next step is to look at the whole population of law teachers and their entire subject-of-interest profile over time. This will take a while!