Saturday, January 25, 2020

Weekend Roundup

  • With the help of Michael J. Wishnie and his clinic students at Yale Law School, a powerhouse group of legal historians has submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam. Signers include Lauren Benton, Barbara Aronstein Black, Paul Brand, Kevin Costello, Christine Desan, Lisa Ford, Eric Freedman, Robert Gordon, Thomas Green, Paul Halliday, Hendrik Hartog, Elizabeth Papp Kamali, Stanley Katz, David Lieberman, Michael Lobban, Bernadette Meyler, Eben Moglen, Hannah Weiss Muller, James Oldham, Wilfred Priest, Jonathan Rose, David J. Seipp, and John Fabian Witt.  
  • The Ipse Dixit podcast has posted an episode on antitrust history, featuring Christopher L. Sagers (Cleveland-Marshall School of Law).  
  • HNN's interview of Chilton Varner, the president of the Supreme Court Historical Society, is here.
  • Martti Koskenniemi presents "What is the History of International Law a History of?" to the  EuroStorie research seminar at the University of Helsinki on January 31.  More.
  • Via HNN, here is a report on an American Historical Association panel on the history of presidential misconduct, with Kathryn Olmstead, Kevin M. Kruse, Jeremi Suri, and James M. Banner, Jr., based on the book, Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today, ed. Banner (New Press, 2019). 
  • Andrew Delbanco, the author of The War before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War, speaks at the FDR Presidential Library at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 9, 2020.
  • A response to Guest blogger David S. Schwartz's guest blogposts here in December--by Michael Ramsey on the Originalism Blog here, with a response to the response by David Schwartz here.
Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Farbman, "Resistance Lawyering"

The California Law Review has published "Resistance Lawyering," by Daniel Farbman (Boston College Law). The abstract:
This is the story of a group of abolitionist lawyers who devoted themselves to working within a legal system that they considered to be fundamentally unjust and illegitimate. These “resistance lawyers” used the limited and unfriendly procedural tools of the hated Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 to frustrate, oppose, and, if possible, dismantle the operation of that law. Abolitionist resistance lawyers were forthrightly committed both to ensuring that their clients remained free and to using the cases that arose under the Fugitive Slave Law to wage a proxy war against the institution of slavery. Their daily direct service practices were inextricably linked to their movement politics and aspirations for systemic reform. Using new archival research that upends the existing historical consensus, I show that this linked practice was dramatically more effective than previously thought, both in protecting individual clients and as a means of building political opposition to slavery in local and national politics. This history should serve as a provocation for contemporary resistance lawyering. Many lawyers today practice within a legal system that they oppose in the hope of frustrating or dismantling that system. I suggest that today’s resistance lawyers can learn from the abolitionists’ integration of politics and daily practice as they fight to increase the political power and salience of their own work.
The full article is available here.

-- Karen Tani

FJC's "Approaches to Federal Judicial History"

The Federal Judicial Center has just published Approaches to Federal Judicial History, edited by Gautham Rao, Winston Bowman and Clara Altman and downloadable here.  As Rao explains in his introduction:
This volume presents recent scholarship on the history of the federal court system. It builds on the symposium “The Federal Courts in American Historiography,” which convened at the Federal Judicial Center in the spring of 2016. The main historical themes of that scholarly meeting and of this volume are the practices and importance of the lower federal courts, the relationship between district and circuit courts and the Supreme Court, and the broader role of the federal court system in American economy and society.
Here’s the TOC:

Introduction by Gautham Rao

Part I: Historicizing the Judicial Branch
1.  The Indefinite Article: Historicizing the Judicial Branch by Winston Bowman
2.  The Handmaid of Justice: Power and Procedure in the Federal Courts by Kellen Funk
3.  Slavery and Emancipation in the Federal Courts, by Aaron Hall
4.  Writing a Court-Centered History of Administrative Governance by Joanna L. Grisinger

Part II: The Role of Lower-Court Histories
5.  Ordained and Established: The Role of Lower-Court Histories by Jake Kobrick
6.  All Rise: The Prospects and Challenges of Lower Federal Judicial Biography by Charles L Zelden
7.  The Federal Courts and Criminal Justice by Sara Mayeux

--Dan Ernst

Lo Extrajudicial, Premo

My last two posts with Judith Mansilla discussed a dimension of law that consumed perhaps the greatest part of colonial Spanish Americans’ legal experiences: a world of verbal agreements, handshakes, and homemade contracts or bills of sale. But we confronted the historian’s dependence on the more official legal archive to provide us glimpses of this dimension, specifically on the civil case record where litigants and witnesses referred to their “pacts,” or “oral receipts.” 

We should not, however, assume that this dimension of law was unsanctioned or fell into a category of the broadly “normative” as opposed to the strictly “legal.” (cont'd)

U. Chicago Seeks Senior Lecturer for Program in Law, Letters, and Society

We have the following call for applications, from the University of Chicago:
The Social Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago is now accepting applications for a Senior Lecturer who will teach in the program in Law, Letters, and Society. This is a full-time, career-track teaching position with a renewable, three-year appointment beginning in 2020.
The program in Law, Letters, and Society (LLSO) is an undergraduate program concerned with law and legal systems, both historically and contemporaneously, that offers a major, courses, student research opportunities, and a variety of co-curricular activities. The program is designed to develop students’ analytical skills and enable an informed, critical examination of law broadly construed. LLSO has approximately 60 undergraduate majors and offers courses taught by instructors from diverse disciplines. The current foci of the program are the study of United States law and democracy, the comparative study of legal systems across time and space, international law, and political economy.
Read on here.

-- Karen Tani

Tomlins's "In the Matter of Nat Turner"

Christopher Tomlins, University of California, Berkeley, has published  In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History (Princeton University Press):
In 1831 Virginia, Nat Turner led a band of Southampton County slaves in a rebellion that killed fifty-five whites, mostly women and children. After more than two months in hiding, Turner was captured, and quickly convicted and executed. In the Matter of Nat Turner penetrates the historical caricature of Turner as befuddled mystic and self-styled Baptist preacher to recover the haunting persona of this legendary American slave rebel, telling of his self-discovery and the dawning of his Christian faith, of an impossible task given to him by God, and of redemptive violence and profane retribution.

Much about Turner remains unknown. His extraordinary account of his life and rebellion, given in chains as he awaited trial in jail, was written down by an opportunistic white attorney and sold as a pamphlet to cash in on Turner’s notoriety. But the enigmatic rebel leader had an immediate and broad impact on the American South, and his rebellion remains one of the most momentous episodes in American history. Christopher Tomlins provides a luminous account of Turner’s intellectual development, religious cosmology, and motivations, and offers an original and incisive analysis of the Turner Rebellion itself and its impact on Virginia politics. Tomlins also undertakes a deeply critical examination of William Styron’s 1967 novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner, which restored Turner to the American consciousness in the era of civil rights, black power, and urban riots.

A speculative history that recovers Turner from the few shards of evidence we have about his life, In the Matter of Nat Turner is also a unique speculation about the meaning and uses of history itself.
--Dan Ernst

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Digital Legal History at Max Planck

[Our friends at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History send word of an upcoming conference on digital legal history.  As the full announcement explains, attendance is free, but the organizers ask that attendees register by sending an informal mail to before February 14, 2020.  DRE.]

Digital Methods and Resources in Legal History (DLH2020).  An international Conference at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (MPIeR), Frankfurt/M.  19/20 March 2020

Preliminary Programme

Thursday, 19.03.2020

09:00-09:30    Registration

09:30-10:30    Duve, Thomas and Amedick, Sigrid and Wagner, Andreas (MPIeR): Opening

10:30-11:30    Funk, Kellen (New York): Plenary Talk, The Making of Modern Law. Digital Computation and the Search for Anglo-American Legal Modernity

11:30-11:45    – Coffee Break –

11:45-12:45    Trump, Dominik (Köln): Digital Methods in Early Medieval Legal History. The New Edition of the Frankish Capitularies

Taylor, Alice (London): Introducing the 'dynamic edition' as a model and method for medieval legal history. Regiam Maiestatem and 'the community of the realm in Scotland' project

12:45-13:45     – Lunch Break –

13:45-14:45    Short Presentations of DH projects at MPIeR
(C. Birr, J.-H. Meyer, A. Küsters, M. Bragagnolo)

14:45-15:00    – Coffee Break –

15:00-16:00    Weck, Marlene (Freiburg): Digital Methods for a Narrative Analysis of Historical Narratives in the Archives of the ICTY

Petz, Cindarella (München): A mixed methods approach to political judiciary

16:00-16:15    – Coffee Break –

16:15-16:45    Robertson, Stephen (Washington, D.C.): Disorder in the Courts. Using Data, Visualizations, and Hypertext to Create a Legal History of the 1935 Harlem 'Riot'

16:45-17:00    Poster Slam

17:00-18:30    Poster Session

Mitra on Indian Sex Life

Durba Mitra (Harvard) has published Indian Sex Life with Harvard University Press. From the publisher:
During the colonial period in India, European scholars, British officials, and elite Indian intellectuals—philologists, administrators, doctors, ethnologists, sociologists, and social critics—deployed ideas about sexuality to understand modern Indian society. In Indian Sex Life, Durba Mitra shows how deviant female sexuality, particularly the concept of the prostitute, became foundational to this knowledge project and became the primary way to think and write about Indian society.
Bringing together vast archival materials from diverse disciplines, Mitra reveals that deviant female sexuality was critical to debates about social progress and exclusion, caste domination, marriage, widowhood and inheritance, women’s performance, the trafficking of girls, abortion and infanticide, industrial and domestic labor, indentured servitude, and ideologies about the dangers of Muslim sexuality. British authorities and Indian intellectuals used the concept of the prostitute to argue for the dramatic reorganization of modern Indian society around Hindu monogamy. Mitra demonstrates how the intellectual history of modern social thought is based in a dangerous civilizational logic built on the control and erasure of women’s sexuality. This logic continues to hold sway in present-day South Asia and the postcolonial world.
Reframing the prostitute as a concept, Indian Sex Life overturns long-established notions of how to write the history of modern social thought in colonial India, and opens up new approaches for the global history of sexuality.
The book includes two chapters (at least) that will be of special interest to legal historians: Ch.2, "Repetition: Law and the Sociology of Deviant Female Sexuality" and Ch.3, "Circularity: Forensics, Abortion, and the Evidence of Deviant Female Sexuality." 

Praise for the book: 

"Indian Sex Life is a well-theorized, dense, and provocative addition to current historical scholarship in gender, sexuality, and colonial/postcolonial studies of South Asia. Drawing attention to the surplus of representations around female sexual deviance within historical materials, Durba Mitra makes bold, ambitious claims about the concept of the prostitute and its role in the unfolding of methods in the social study of colonial Bengal."—Anjali Arondekar

"The startling, convincing insight in Durba Mitra's superbly researched concept-history of the prostitute is that ideas about deviant female sexuality undergird modern disciplinary knowledge, shaping debates across fields as diverse as jurisprudence, political economy, and philology. This is a valuable contribution to the global history of sexuality, and essential reading for scholars interested in modernity, colonial knowledge, gender, and cultural history."—Prachi Deshpande

"In Indian Sex Life, Durba Mitra writes with the utmost clarity and precision about female sexuality in colonial India, a topic long regarded as messy and opaque. This innovative and beautifully crafted study of the prostitute makes excellent use of feminist and queer theory to trace the construction of deviancy in social scientific thought. There are crucial insights here for scholars across the disciplines."—Laura Doan

"Pathbreaking and original, Indian Sex Life establishes the central place of deviant female sexuality in discussions about Indian society in a range of disciplines. Departing from other studies about prostitution in the subcontinent, this valuable work makes significant contributions to the literature on colonial India and to the voluminous writings on gender and sexuality in South Asia. It will compel global scholars of sexuality to question their existing assumptions."—Douglas E. Haynes

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Goldenfein, "Monitoring Laws: Profiling and Identity in the World State"

Cambridge University Press recently released Monitoring Laws: Profiling and Identity in the World State (Nov. 2019), by Jake Goldenfein (Cornell University). A description from the Press:
Our world and the people within it are increasingly interpreted and classified by automated systems. At the same time, automated classifications influence what happens in the physical world. These entanglements change what it means to interact with governance, and shift what elements of our identity are knowable and meaningful. In this cyber-physical world, or 'world state', what is the role for law? Specifically, how should law address the claim that computational systems know us better than we know ourselves? Monitoring Laws traces the history of government profiling from the invention of photography through to emerging applications of computer vision for personality and behavioral analysis. It asks what dimensions of profiling have provoked legal intervention in the past, and what is different about contemporary profiling that requires updating our legal tools. This work should be read by anyone interested in how computation is changing society and governance, and what it is about people that law should protect in a computational world.
A sample of some advance praise:
'How thrilling it is to read a work that stretches ideas of what legal thought and practice have been, and what they might yet become. Monitoring Laws is such a book. In captivating, pellucid prose, Jake Goldenfein retells the story of two centuries of profiling practice - from photography to neural nets, from dossiers to data analytics - and the legal, representational and relational thinking imbricated therein. Throughout, Goldenfein shows, legal notions of identity have been modulated, challenged and reworked along with developments in surveillance technology. And those notions may yet still be, he shows, by thinking juridically with data, rather than through, against, or in spite of our contemporary informational existence. To the broad range of readers likely to find this book of interest, Goldenfein urges paying close attention to how the world and we who live here are being structured and actioned informationally, and extending our thinking about legal subjects accordingly. And once one does attend to this book’s thoughtful refiguring of the stakes of digital surveillance, it is indeed hard to look away.' -- Fleur Johns
More information is available here.

-- Karen Tani

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

ABF Fellowships: Deadline Extended

[We're moving up this announcement from the American Bar Foundation because the deadline for all fellowships (except the ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars) has been extended to February 15.  DRE]

Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunities at the American Bar Foundation

As one of the world’s leading research institutes for the empirical and interdisciplinary study of law, the American Bar Foundation (ABF) is committed to fostering the next generation of sociolegal scholars.  The ABF is inviting applications for the following opportunities:


1.    The ABF/Access Lex Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Legal & Higher Education

2.    Postdoctoral Scholar in The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program   


1.    The ABF/Access Lex Institute Doctoral Fellowship Program in Legal & Higher Education

2.    The ABF Doctoral Fellowship Program in Law & Inequality

3.    ABF/Northwestern Univeristy Doctoral Fellowship Program in Law and Social Science

These fellowships are designed to encourage original and significant research. Fellows become immersed in an exciting and diverse intellectual community and gain access to a professional network of innovative scholars. Because the ABF’s sole focus is research, there is no teaching component to these fellowships.

In addition to working on their own research, Fellows receive mentoring from a community of leading socio-legal scholars throughout the length of the fellowship. They will participate in a series of weekly in-house seminars to get acquainted with the many facets of sociolegal research and working groups to promote professional development, such writing workshops and mock job talks.

All Fellows will work at the ABF’s office in Chicago on a full-time basis from September 2020 to August 2022 and will receive an annual stipend of $35,000 for the Doctoral and $65,000 for the Postdoctoral fellowship.

Flyers can be downloaded at the links [above.] Please share this information with members of your academic community.

The fellowships programs are featured in our recent Researching Law issue as well. For further information, please email or visit our website.

Law Books: History & Connoisseurship

A printing press at Yale (Mitra Sharafi)

[We share the following announcement from Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. Applications are due Feb.17, 2020. Here are some highlights from the 2018 course.]

Rare Book School is now accepting applications for admission to “Law Books: History & Connoisseurship,” which Ryan Greenwood and Mike Widener will teach in the Yale Law Library June 7-12, 2020. Enrollment is limited to 12 students. The course description, advance reading list, evaluations from previous students, and a link to the application site are here:

Information on the application process, program costs, etc., is available here:

This intensive, week-long course is about building focused, interesting, and useful collections of historical materials in Anglo-American, European, and Latin American law. It is aimed at individuals and librarians who collect historical legal materials, and the book dealers who supply them, as well as librarians developing collections from existing holdings. Lively discussion and extensive hands-on activities are hallmarks of the course.

Mike writes: This will be my seventh time teaching the course. It will the second time for my co-instructor Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Law Library. Due to my retirement from Yale in April 2021, future offerings of this course are uncertain. If you have wanted to take the course, and haven't yet attended, now is the time. I can answer questions about the content of the course. All questions about applications, registration, tuition, and housing should be directed to the Rare Book School staff, at

Rare Book Librarian
Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School
127 Wall Street, New Haven CT 06511-8918
Phone: (203) 432-4494

--Mitra Sharafi

Monday, January 20, 2020

Sovereignty, Law, and Emancipation in the South Atlantic at Emory

[We have the following announcement.  DRE]

Sovereignty, Law, and Emancipation in the South Atlantic, 1850-1900.  Emory University, February 7, 2020.  Organizers: Adriana Chira and Yanna Yannakakis

12:00-1:00 pm Lunch and Welcome

1:00 pm-3:30 pm Fragile Freedoms: Law and Dispossession in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World
Mariana Candido, Associate Professor of History, Notre Dame University.  “Legal Changes, Dispossession and Land Commodification in Angola during the 19th Century”

Jon Connolly, Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton University.  “Indenture as Free Labor: British Ideologies of Freedom in the Shadow of Cuban Slavery”

Mariana Dias Paes, Researcher, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History.  “Lawyers, Courts and Resistance: Fighting Land Dispossession in Colonial Angola”

Anjuli Webster, Graduate Student, Emory University.  “The Dingane-Retief Encounter and the Afterlives of British Abolition in Southern Africa”

Commentators: Kristin Mann (Emory University) and Walter Rucker (Emory University)

3:30 pm-4 pm: Coffee Break

4:00 pm- 6:30 pm Reconfiguring Sovereignty: Subjecthood and Citizenship in the Age of Emancipation

Adriana Chira, Assistant Professor of History, Emory University.  “From Plantations to Penal Colonies: Militarism in Cuba and Equatorial Guinea, 1840s-1890s”

 Anne Eller, Associate Professor of History, Yale University.  “What Does Independence Mean? Popular Parameters for Caribbean Sovereignty in the 1890s”

Natasha Lightfoot, Associate Professor of History, Columbia University.  “Plassy Lawrence's British Subjecthood and Her Struggle against Reenslavement in the Spanish Caribbean”

Dalia Muller, Associate Professor of History, SUNY-Buffalo.  “‘Free Men and Foreigners’: Representation, Afro-Diasporic Thought and Cuban Politics ca. 1900”

Commentators: David Sartorius (University of Maryland) and Brian Vick (Emory University)

Support has been provided by: The American Society for Legal History; The Hightower Fund; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; The Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; The Department of Spanish and Portuguese, The James Weldon Johnson Institute, Institute of African Studies, and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and the History Department.

More Than a Contract II, Premo with J. Mansilla

In the last blog, we discussed how improvised legal deals made far from notarial offices helped the inhabitants of Lima get back on their feet again after a massive earthquake and tidal wave in 1687. But even in ordinary times, informal tratos were recognized as legally—and socially-- binding. (cont'd)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Jackson's "Faith of My Fathers" (Barrett, ed.)

John Q. Barrett, St. John's Law, has posted his edition of Robert H. Jackson’s previously unpublished essay, The Faith of My Fathers, which appears in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review 169 (2019): 1-16
Robert H. Jackson, ca. 1940 (LC)
When Justice Robert H. Jackson died, he left thirteen handwritten pages—this Essay—among his papers. It has been unknown for sixty-five years, until this publication.

The essay addresses two topics: (1) Jackson’s own religious beliefs and practices and those of his ancestors, who were 19th and early 20th century American farmers; and (2) some history of Spiritualist movements in their western Pennsylvania and western New York State region. Jackson and his people were shaped by religious currents and diversities. They believed that the proper way to live is to give people space and to tolerate what they are and what they choose to believe and to practice in their own spaces, so long as they do not intrude unduly on others’.

Justice Jackson’s essay is significant because it comes from him, a renowned writer and one of the most interesting, thoughtful, and significant United States Supreme Court justices ever—it is a late-life, deeply personal piece of Jackson. The essay also has significance because it is Jackson on religion, a topic of great import in life, constitutional law, public debates, and legal cases.

As a Supreme Court justice, Jackson wrote many notable opinions addressing how the U.S. Constitution limits and empowers government in the realm of religion. In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), for example, he wrote the Court’s opinion holding that the Constitution prohibits public officials from compelling Jehovah’s Witness schoolchildren to salute and pledge allegiance to the American flag. For Jackson, that limit on government power to compel professions of faith was of a piece with his view that government constitutionally may prohibit religious proselytizers from harassing others, especially in their homes—under the Constitution as he understood it, government may regulate religious actors when, but only when, their conduct imposes upon the freedom and peace of others. Jackson also believed that the Constitution bars government from ranking religion itself or any particular religion as more or less correct, or from evaluating the sincerity of professed adherents. In his view, to believe and practice any religion or none at all is, short of the point where it imposes on another, for the individual to determine, separate from government involvement.

This Jackson essay reveals that his personal views on religion and his own religious practices very much fit with his judicial interpretations of the Constitution. Jackson did not really believe in God or practice religion, but he was tolerant of others who did and how they chose to do so. He respected and deferred to the sincerity of people whose belief systems were not his. In both his living and his constitutional judging, Jackson gave religion its private space. He objected, however, and he read the Constitution as the legal basis on which to object, when government sought to bring religion into public spaces, because they belong equally to people whose beliefs range from religious belief to non-belief.
--Dan Ernst

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Weekend Roundup

  • Politics and Prose Bookstore at Union Market welcomes Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross in conversation with Robert Tsai to discuss and sign copies of Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana on Sunday, February 2 at 1:00 PM, at 1270 5th St NE, Washington, DC.
  • “In conjunction with its upcoming revival of 1776 directed by Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director Diane Paulus, American Repertory Theater at Harvard University will host a series of conversations with acclaimed Harvard scholars that consider the Declaration of Independence and topics and themes raised by the musical.”  The announced speakers are Vincent Brown, Annette Gordon-Reed, Jane Kamensky, Jill Lepore, David Moss, and Mark Tushnet.  (Broadway World, Boston.)
  • New (or at least newly noticed) webcasts by the Supreme Court Historical Society: (1) David Bruce Smith interviewed by Martha Meehan Cohen on Abigail & John, “a new book aimed at young audiences that chronicles the dynamic partnership of the Adams”; and (2) Clare Cushman interviewed by Martha Meehan Cohen: “Celebrating the Centennial of the Supreme Court Clerkship: Is this the Right Year?”
  • "At Delhi’s Supreme Court Museum, relive the subcontinent’s legal history,” urges The Indian Express.  “The museum has a display of over 1,500 items, incorporating case files and documents of the Indira Gandhi assassination documents, Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, and the Shah Bano case, to name a few. ”  More.
  • On the blog of the Capital Research Center, “established in 1984 to examine how foundations, charities, and other nonprofits spend money and get involved in politics and advocacy, often in ways that donors never intended and would find abhorrent,” Robert Stilson, on The Legal Services Corporation: A History of Political Advocacy, the second in a series.
Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Swanson on "Invention of a Slave"

Kara W. Swanson, Northeastern University School of Law, has posted Race and Selective Legal Memory: Reflections on Invention of a Slave, which is forthcoming in volume 120 of the Columbia Law Review:
In 1858, the United States Attorney General issued an opinion, Invention of a Slave. Relying on the Supreme Court’s recent declaration in Dred Scott v. Sandford that African Americans were not citizens, he created a formal racial barrier to the patent system, declaring inventions by all African Americans, enslaved and free, unpatentable. Within a few years, legal changes that overruled Dred Scott and abolished the law of slavery rendered the opinion obsolete. This brief opinion became, as far as lawyers and legal scholars were concerned, forgotten. Unlike many overruled opinions dropped from the legal canon, however, Invention of a Slave and the associated story of an enslaved blacksmith who invented an innovative plow have been continuously remembered. Women and men committed to fighting the legacy of slavery maintained both in the collective memory of those seeking full civil rights for African Americans. Our legal forgetting was an act of persistent blindness to their efforts and publications. This Essay excavates the generations of African American writers and activists who have worked to remember the opinion and argues that legal forgetting has carried a cost. Their remembering was not casual storytelling but rather deliberate, strategic, and political. I offer Invention of a Slave as a case study of race and selective legal memory, tracing an unacknowledged color line that demarcates legal memory and the costs of that line. Because of our forgetting, the opinion appears as an obscure part of the antebellum past. When we understand their remembering as a political act, we can see what they have always seen: There is a connection between the patent system and the legal and social definition of citizenship. At a time when the boundaries of citizenship and the contours of who is worthy to be considered an American are hotly contested in ways related to race and ancestry, learning from those who remembered Invention of a Slave offers lessons that link this piece of the past to our present and future, with implications both for the patent system and for our on-going conversation about race, equality, citizenship and the laws that affect them.
--Dan Ernst

Weinberger at BC Legal History Roundtable

 [We have the following from our friends at the Boston College Law School.  DRE]

We invite you to join us Thursday, January 30, at 4:30 in the Rare Book Room for our first event of the spring semester of the BC Legal History Roundtable 2019-2020.  

Our guest will be  Lael Weinberger, Harvard Law School, Berger-Howe Legal History Fellow 2019-20.   He will be presenting a paper, "Judiciaries, Domestic and International: The Election of 1912" from his larger project, "Judicializing International Relations: Internationalism, Courts, and American Lawyers in the Progressive Era."

The paper is available on the Roundtable website. (Instructions for accessing the paper are in the final paragraph of the website introduction.)

Lael Weinberger is the Raoul Berger-Mark DeWolfe Howe Legal History Fellow at Harvard Law School. He is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago, where he studies American legal history. Lael earned a JD with high honors from the University of Chicago Law School and clerked for Judge Frank Easterbrook on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and for Chief Justice Daniel Eismann on the Idaho Supreme Court. Lael is currently writing a dissertation on American lawyers’ ideas about international law, world order, and human rights in the first half of the twentieth century. His research interests include constitutional law, international law, civil procedure, law and religion, and the legal profession. 

This paper, part of Weinberger's project on internationalism in the legal profession, reconstructs an unfamiliar period at the start of the twentieth century when American lawyers across political divides tended to believe that world courts and robust international law were the future of international relations—even suggesting that law would replace diplomacy and that international litigation would replace war. From a modern vantage point the “legal internationalism” of the period looks unrealistic or even utopian. But its very unfamiliarity provides an ideal starting point for examining the intellectual, political, and legal conditions of possibility for legal internationalism.

Refreshments are available beginning at 4:15 pm. outside the Library Conference Room.

More Than a Contract Part I, Premo with J. Mansilla

As I’m joined by my colleague and fellow historian of Peru, Judith Mansilla, for the next two blog posts, we bring in another voice to harmonize with us: the contemporary Spanish musician Alejandro Sanz. In his ballad Hicimos un trato (We made a deal), he croons:

Hicimos un trato, no sé si te acuerdas …     We made a deal, I don’t know if you remember…  
…que un trato es un trato                             that a deal is a deal
Mucho más que un contrato                         Much more than a contract  (cont'd)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Boyd, Ramsay and Ali on Imprisonment for Debt in Colonial Victoria

Jodie Boyd, RMIT University, and Ian Ramsay and Paul Ali, Melbourne Law School, have posted "Contrary to the Spirit of the Age": Imprisonment for Debt in Colonial Victoria, 1857–90, which appears in the Melbourne University Law Review 42 (2019): 737-779:
The reintroduction in 1857 of imprisonment for debt in colonial Victoria flew in the face of international momentum for its abolition. In its criminalisation of debt and poverty, the Fellows Act 1857 (Vic) (21 Vict, No 29) also defied the rapid advancement of democratic and egalitarian principles in the fledgling colony. Frequently referred to as ‘gross class legislation’, the law was used unabashedly to target poor small debtors, leaving ‘mercantile men’ with significant debt untroubled by the prospect of a debtors’ gaol. Despite consistent and broad opposition to the Fellows Act, its advocates resisted repeated attempts to abolish or meaningfully amend it. It is argued here that the law, and its survival against the ‘spirit of the age’, can be understood as part of a broader story of conservative resistance to the democratic innovations that threatened the power of the Victorian mercantilist establishment.
--Dan Ernst

Halevi on "Islam’s Global and Material Reformation in the Age of Rida, 1865–1935"

Via the New Books Network (New Books in Law), we have word of the publication of Modern Things on Trial: Islam’s Global and Material Reformation in the Age of Rida, 1865–1935 (Columbia University Press, 2019), by Leor Halevi (Vanderbilt University). A description from the press:
In cities awakening to global exchange under European imperial rule, Muslims encountered all sorts of strange and wonderful new things—synthetic toothbrushes, toilet paper, telegraphs, railways, gramophones, brimmed hats, tailored pants, and lottery tickets. The passage of these goods across cultural frontiers spurred passionate debates. Realizing that these goods were changing religious practices and values, proponents and critics wondered what to outlaw and what to permit.

In this book, Leor Halevi tells the story of the Islamic trials of technological and commercial innovations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He focuses on the communications of an entrepreneurial Syrian interpreter of the shariʿa named Rashid Rida, who became a renowned reformer by responding to the demand for authoritative and authentic religious advice. Upon migrating to Egypt, Rida founded an Islamic magazine, The Lighthouse, which cultivated an educated, prosperous readership within and beyond the British Empire. To an audience eager to know if their scriptures sanctioned particular interactions with particular objects, he preached the message that by rediscovering Islam’s foundational spirit, the global community of Muslims would thrive and realize modernity’s religious and secular promises.

Through analysis of Rida’s international correspondence, Halevi argues that religious entanglements with new commodities and technologies were the driving forces behind local and global projects to reform the Islamic legal tradition. Shedding light on culture, commerce, and consumption in Cairo and other colonial cities, Modern Things on Trial is a groundbreaking account of Islam’s material transformation in a globalizing era.
A few blurbs:
Leor Halevi's original study offers important perspectives on turn of the twentieth-century Islamic reformist thought in the context of changing relations between law and material history. He matches up instructive readings in legal opinions delivered in Cairo by Rashid Rida with innovative background research on the new products and technologies that prompted questions to him from around the Muslim world. Brinkley Messick
This nuanced, meticulously researched, yet accessible study illuminates how significant early-twentieth-century debates on Islamic law often revolved around some surprisingly ordinary objects and how local anxieties and input shaped a reformist Islam with transregional appeal. Halevi's focus on the material dimensions of modern Islamic thought adds a very welcome and promising dimension to the scholarship in this field. Muhammad Qasim Zaman
More information is available here.

-- Karen Tani

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Spring 2020 at the Washington History Seminar

[The Washington History Seminar has announced its lineup for Spring 2020.  It meets Mondays (unless noted above) at 4:00 pm in the Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor Moynihan Board Room, Ronald Reagan Building, Federal Triangle Metro Stop, Washington, DC.  DRE]

The seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partners (the George Washington University History Department and the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest) for their continued support

January 13-Sidney Blumenthal
The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln: Volumes I-III

January 21-David Roll (Tuesday)
George Marshall: Defender of the Republic

January 27-Jeremy Popkin
A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution

January 30-Norman Naimark (Thursday)
Stalin and the Fate of Europe: The Postwar Struggle for Sovereignty

February 3-Astrid M. Eckert
West Germany and the Iron Curtain: Environment, Economy, and Culture in the Borderlands

February 10-Amy Offner
Sorting Out the Mixed Economy: The Rise and Fall of Welfare and Development States in the Americas

February 24-Lawrence Glickman
Free Enterprise: An American History

March 2-Amy Aronson
Crystal Eastman: A Revolutionary Life

March 9-Duncan White
Cold Warriors: Writers Who waged the Literary Cold War

March 16-Giuliana Chamedes
A Twentieth-Century Crusade: The Vatican's Battle to Remake Christian Europe

March 23-Eric Weitz
A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States

March 30-Eileen Boris
Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019

April 6-Sarah Miller-Davenport
Gateway State: Hawaii and the Cultural Transformation of America

April 13-Ellen DuBois
Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote

April 20-Sarah Wagner
What Remains: Bringing America's Missing Home from the Vietnam War

April 27-Thavoila Glymph
The Women’s Fight: The Civil War’s Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation

May 4-Sarah Milov
The Cigarette: A Political History

May 11-John Connelly
From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern Europe

May 18-Benjamin Hopkins
Ruling the Savage Periphery: Frontier Governance and the Making of the Modern State.

Whewell's "Law across Imperial Borders"

Emily Whewell, a  Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, has published Law across imperial borders: British consuls and colonial connections on China's western frontiers, 1880-1943 (Manchester University Press):
Law across imperial borders offers new perspectives on the complex legal connections between Britain's presence in Western China in the western frontier regions of Yunnan and Xinjiang, and the British colonies of Burma and India. Bringing together a transnational methodology with a social-legal focus, it demonstrates how inter-Asian mobility across frontiers shaped British authority in contested frontier regions of China. It examines the role of a range of actors who helped create, constitute and contest legal practice on the frontier-including consuls, indigenous elites and cultural mediators. The book will be of interest to historians of China, the British Empire in Asia and legal history.
Part I: The Burma-China frontier
1 Treaty-making and treaty-breaking: transfrontier salt and opium, 1904-11
2 On the move: people crossing the frontier, 1911-25
3 Consuls and Frontier Meetings, 1909-35

Part II: Through the mountains and across the desert: Xinjiang
4 Isolation and connection: law between semicolonial China and the Raj
5 Administering justice and mediating local custom
6 The British end game in Xinjiang: the decline of consular rights, 1917-39

–Dan Ernst

du Plessis, ed., "Wrongful Damage to Property in Roman Law: British Perspectives"

Oxford University Press (in partnership with Edinburgh University Press) has released Wrongful Damage to Property in Roman Law: British Perspectives (Dec. 2019), edited by Paul J. du Plessis (University of Edinburgh). A description from the Press:
Few topics have had a more profound impact on the study of Roman law in Britain than the lex Aquilia, a Roman statute enacted c.287/286 BCE to reform the Roman law on wrongful damage to property. This volume investigates this peculiarly British fixation against the backdrop larger themes such as the development of delict/tort in Britain and the rise of comparative law.

Taken collectively, the volume establishes whether it is possible to identify a 'British' method of researching and writing about Roman law.
More information, including the table of contents, is available here.

-- Karen Tani

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Schrag's "Baby Jails"

My Georgetown Law colleague Philip G. Schrag, has just published Baby Jails The Fight to End the Incarceration of Refugee Children in America (University of California Press) a history of the Flores decision:
For decades, advocates for refugee children and families have fought to end the U.S. government’s practice of jailing children and families for months, or even years, until overburdened immigration courts could rule on their claims for asylum. Baby Jails is the history of that legal and political struggle. Philip G. Schrag, the director of Georgetown University’s asylum law clinic, takes readers through thirty years of conflict over which refugee advocates resisted the detention of migrant children. The saga began during the Reagan administration when 15-year-old Jenny Lisette Flores languished in a Los Angeles motel that the government had turned into a makeshift jail by draining the swimming pool, barring the windows, and surrounding the building with barbed wire. What became known as the Flores Settlement Agreement was still at issue years later, when the Trump administration resorted to the forced separation of families after the courts would not allow long-term jailing of the children. Schrag provides recommendations for the reform of a system that has brought anguish and trauma to thousands of parents and children. Provocative and timely, Baby Jails exposes the ongoing struggle between the U.S. government and immigrant advocates over the duration and conditions of confinement of children who seek safety in America.
--Dan Ernst

Law & History CRN at LSA

[In a reminder that service to the discipline ought not be a life sentence, we have the following announcement, concerning the Law & History Collaborative Research Network of the Law and Society Association.]

We're delighted to announce that the Law & History Collaborative Research Network (CRN 44) has new organizers! They are: Nate Holdren, Assistant Professor in the Law, Politics, & Society Program at Drake University; Elizabeth D. Katz, Associate Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law; and Charlotte Rosen, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Northwestern University. More information, including contact information for the organizers, is available [here.]

We have enjoyed organizing the Law & History CRN for the past several years, and are delighted that it's going to be in such great hands going forward. Please join me in welcoming Charlotte, Elizabeth, and Nate!


Joanna Grisinger, Center for Legal Studies, Northwestern University
Logan Sawyer, University of Georgia Law School
Kathryn Schumaker, Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, University of Oklahoma
Kimberly Welch, Department of History, Vanderbilt University

[Thanks alike, to the outgoing and incoming citizen-scholars.  DRE.]

Copies and Originals, Premo

In a terrific book about notaries in colonial Cuzco, Peru, Kathryn Burns reminds us how frequently official writers distorted, left blank, and forged contracts and parts of court cases, leaving traces of their control over the order of the historical record.[1]  But, if official writers held the power to shape the archive, at the same time, ordinary Spanish colonial subjects—many of whom did not read or write themselves-- commandeered the form of legal protocols and served as legal agents outside of court. 

The notary-free contract was a part of daily life, and it crossed any simple divide between colonizer and colonized, enslaved and free, state and subject.  People picked up and reproduced, out loud, in rough orthography, on the backsides of printed text and scraps of paper, the formula for contracts that had been set in manuals for legal personnel. (cont'd)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Likhovski on the "Colonial Legal Laboratory" in the Jurisprudence of the British Empire

Assaf Likhovski, Tel Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law, has posted A Colonial Legal Laboratory? Jurisprudential Innovation in the British Empire, which is forthcoming in the American Journal of Comparative Law:
In this article, I examine jurisprudence textbooks and related works written in the British Empire in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, focusing mostly on British India, but also discussing Mandatory Palestine and British-ruled Egypt. Some of the jurisprudential works from the British Empire were merely summaries of the leading English books. However, there were also more original works, characterized by several unique features. First, some of the works produced in the Empire were more influenced by Continental and American legal theories than the equivalent English textbooks (for example, by early-20th-century French and American sociological approaches to law). Second, the need to mention non-English legal systems in these works sometimes led their authors to question key English notions about the nature and development of law (critiquing, for example, Henry Maine’s description of Hindu law). Finally, some nationalist local legal scholars also created a unique genre of jurisprudential works: texts that used western jurisprudential theories to describe the main features of non-western legal systems, such as Hindu, Jewish and Islamic law.

These unique aspects of colonial jurisprudential works illustrate a broader phenomenon: the fact that legal scholars in imperial peripheries were not always simply passive receivers of ideas produced at the center of empires, but in some cases created works containing interesting jurisprudential insights. The notion that the British Empire was a “legal laboratory” in which legal scholars experimented with new ideas has already been discussed in the literature, largely based on examples taken from the fields of legislation (the codification of English law in 19th-century India), or forensic science. This article explores the extent to which the British Empire was also a site of jurisprudential innovation.
--Dan Ernst

Bird, "Criminal Dissent: Prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798"

New from Harvard University Press: Criminal Dissent: Prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (Jan. 2020), by Wendell Bird (visiting scholar, Emory University School of Law). A description from the Press:
In the first complete account of prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition Acts, dozens of previously unknown cases come to light, revealing the lengths to which the John Adams administration went in order to criminalize dissent.
The campaign to prosecute dissenting Americans under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 ignited the first battle over the Bill of Rights. Fearing destructive criticism and “domestic treachery” by Republicans, the administration of John Adams led a determined effort to safeguard the young republic by suppressing the opposition.
The acts gave the president unlimited discretion to deport noncitizens and made it a crime to criticize the president, Congress, or the federal government. In this definitive account, Wendell Bird goes back to the original federal court records and the papers of Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and finds that the administration’s zeal was far greater than historians have recognized. Indeed, there were twice as many prosecutions and planned deportations as previously believed. The government went after local politicians, raisers of liberty poles, and even tavern drunks but most often targeted Republican newspaper editors, including Benjamin Franklin’s grandson. Those found guilty were sent to prison or fined and sometimes forced to sell their property to survive. The Federalists’ support of laws to prosecute political opponents and opposition newspapers ultimately contributed to the collapse of the party and left a large stain on their record.
The Alien and Sedition Acts launched a foundational debate on press freedom, freedom of speech, and the legitimacy of opposition politics. The result was widespread revulsion over the government’s attempt to deprive Americans of their hard-won liberties. Criminal Dissent is a potent reminder of just how fundamental those rights are to a stable democracy.
Advance praise:
Wendell Bird combines wide and deep research, analytical skill, and clear and strong prose to illuminate the history of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. In addition to his superb, thoughtful treatment of the Sedition Act—a landmark in the history of contests over the meaning of freedom of speech and freedom of the press—Bird enriches our understanding of the neglected Alien Acts. This fine book will be invaluable to any student of free speech and free press, of citizenship, of the early American republic, and of the formative period of U.S. constitutional history.—R. B. Bernstein

A benchmark history of the Alien and Sedition Acts and their place in the political culture of the 1790s. With encyclopedic erudition, Bird documents the legal history of criminalized dissent and the rhetoric of transatlantic revolution and reaction that drove partisan politics in the early republic. He also does something more: he restores the necessity of a vibrant, contested polity to its rightful place at the center of American political ideas. Never has the Jeffersonian argument for an active and dissenting citizenry been more important, and never before have we had a more thorough treatment of that argument’s origin and legacy.—Matthew Crow
More information is available here.

-- Karen Tani

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Weekend Roundup

  • Legal scholars and historians on the uproar over changes to India's citizenship laws: read this by Shubhankar Damthis by Rohit De and Surabhi Ranganathanthis by Madhav Khoslathis by Gautam Bhatia, and this by Neeti Nair. Here's a useful microsyllabus on citizenship and provisional belonging in South Asia, by Swati Chawla, Jessica Namakkal, Kalyani Ramnath, and Lydia Walker.
  • On January 14, 2020, the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History hosts a colloquium on Decolonial Comparative Law, with Ralf Michaels and Lena Salaymeh.
  • "The [British] National Archives have provoked outcry from academics by announcing a new trial restricting readers to 12 documents a day” (Telegraph, via HNN).
  • Trey Gaines, Director of the Bartow History Museum, is to speak on the history of the 1869 Courthouse in Cartersville, Georgia, on January 15 from noon to 1 p.m.  (More)
 Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Khorakiwala on India's Colonial High Courts

By: Rahela Khorakiwala, an independent scholar based in Mumbai, India, has published From the Colonial to the Contemporary: Images, Iconography, Memories, and Performances of Law in India's High Courts (Hart, 2020):
From the Colonial to the Contemporary explores the representation of law, images and justice in the first three colonial high courts of India at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. It is based upon ethnographic research work and data collected from interviews with judges, lawyers, court staff, press reporters and other persons associated with the courts.

Observing the courts through the in vivo, in trial and practice, the book asks questions at different registers, including the impact of the architecture of the courts, the contestation around the renaming of the high courts, the debate over the use of English versus regional languages, forms of addressing the court, the dress worn by different court actors, rules on photography, video recording, live telecasting of court proceedings, use of CCTV cameras and the alternatives to courtroom sketching, and the ceremony and ritual that exists in daily court proceedings.

The three colonial high courts studied in this book share a recurring historical tension between the Indian and British notions of justice. This tension is apparent in the semiotics of the legal spaces of these courts and is transmitted through oral history as narrated by those interviewed. The contemporary understandings of these court personnel are therefore seen to have deep historical roots. In this context, the architecture and judicial iconography of the high courts helps to constitute, preserve and reinforce the ambivalent relationship that the court shares with its own contested image.
--Dan Ernst

Law and the Lettered City

What is the historical relationship between law and writing, legality and literacy? As a guest blogger whose work centers primarily on colonial Latin America, I might be in a good position to offer some reflections on these questions. After all, historians of colonial Latin America have long emphasized the litigiousness of its inhabitants. Many wax poetic about the mountains of yellowing civil suits and vertiginously tall leather-clad notary ledgers held in national archives. Still, the population generally didn’t read and write much. (Even a hundred years ago, the literacy rates in most countries in the region was under 30 percent.) This means there is a lot of law in Latin America’s past but not a lot of traditional literacy. (cont'd)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Sanga on the Race to the Bottom in Corporation Law

Sarath Sanga, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, has posted On the Origins of the Market for Corporate Law:
I study the origins of the market for corporate charters and the emergence of Delaware as the leader of this market. Specifically, I assemble new data on 19th and 20th-century corporations to evaluate two widely-held beliefs: (1) the U.S. Supreme Court is responsible for enabling a national market for corporate charters in the 19th century and (2) Delaware became the leader in this market only because New Jersey (the initial leader) repealed its extremely liberal corporate laws in 1913. I argue that both claims are false: The Supreme Court always opposed a national market for corporate charters, and New Jersey’s decline began a decade before its 1913 repeal. It is more likely that the market for corporate charters emerged as a collateral consequence of interstate commerce and that New Jersey declined because Delaware and other states simply copied its laws.
--Dan Ernst

Ward's "English Legal Histories"

Out now from Hart: English Legal Histories, by Ian Ward, Professor of Law, Newcastle University:
English Legal Histories is an exciting and innovative approach to the study of English law. Written in an accessible style intended for students as well as a broader audience, it takes the reader beyond the narrower confines of legal doctrines and cases, and invites them to consider the myriad contexts within which English law has been shaped: the politics, the economics, the art, the poetry. Reaching from the Reformation through to the age of Reform, it tells stories, the 'histories', of English law. Histories of the constitution and government, of crime and contracts, tort and trespass, property and equity. Of the people who made that law, those who wrote it, and those who suffered it. For it is in the end a human story, of justice and injustice, of success and failure, good luck and bad. The law is full of statutes and instruments, cases and precedent, but its history is full of people and peculiarity. Which is what, of course, makes it so endlessly fascinating.
Table of Contents after the jump.

Fear, Loathing, and Legal History on the Campaign Trail

Today’s Washington Post includes the story, “The surreal lives of 2020 campaign spouses: What happens when your loved one wants to be president.”  Of John Bessler, the husband of Amy Klobuchar, and Bruce Mann, the husband of Elizabeth Warren, it reports, “Bessler says he and Mann geek out about their shared love of legal history whenever they run into each other.”  H/t: RAE

--Dan Ernst

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

McClellan on Early Women's Rights Activists and the 14th Amendment

Angus McClellan, Claremont Graduate University, has posted Early Women's Rights Activists and the Meaning of the 14th Amendment:
The purpose of this paper is to consider the meaning of the 14th Amendment as it applies to women in the United States through the perspective of the women’s rights litigants, advocates, and their allies in the 1860s and 1870s. Originalism as a method for constitutional interpretation can take many forms, including giving weight to the original intent of the drafters of the Constitution or its amendments, or deferring to the understandings of the ratifiers in state conventions and legislatures, or perhaps giving weight to the “public meaning” or “public understanding” of the documents by considering newspaper editorials, pamphlets, and dictionary definitions in use at the times of their ratifications. This paper is an originalist approach to understanding the 14th Amendment by turning to a group of people who were particularly active in the earliest debates on its meaning. Modern interpretations as well as those from contemporaneous statesmen and jurists will be considered as well to provide some orientation and comparison.

To map this argument broadly, modern scholars argue that the 14th Amendment protects some or all categories of individuals within the jurisdiction of the United States, and they variously claim that Section 1 protects substantive or procedural civil, political, natural, fundamental, or common law rights, or even social equality. Adding to this the variety of definitions of rights or “equality,” there is a wide spectrum of scholarly thought on what the 14th Amendment protects, and to whom it applies. Part II be divided between political efforts and legal efforts. It will focus first on the political efforts and the accompanying interpretations of the 14th Amendment from some of the most prominent activists during the 1860s and 1870s. It will then explore the legal arguments of women’s rights activists and their attorneys engaged in litigation from three notable cases in the earliest days of the 14th Amendment.
--Dan Ernst

Pioneer African Women in Law Project

[We noted the following on H-Announce.  DRE]

Pioneer African Women in Law Project (PAWLP)

Women across the continent of Africa have historically played important leadership roles. Today, despite colonial re-gendering of our societies, African women continue to rise. The Pioneer African Women in Law Project (PAWLP) is a digital archive project designed to document in one collection, the lives and contributions of African women pioneers in the different fields of law across Africa.

What areas of the law are included? AND What is the measure of a pioneer?  A “pioneer” is measured by any woman who was the “first” in any  field of the legal professions in any country-- first woman lawyer, magistrate, judge, prosecutor, attorney general, chief justice, first president of apex court,  law professor, first female Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), first woman president of a legal association, e.g. national bar association, Commonwealth association of judges or lawyers etc.

Who can submit an entry?  Entries are open to all interested authors. Cross and interdisciplinary submissions are especially welcome.  Entries should be original and not previously published elsewhere

Deadline for submissions?  Send an email of expression of interest to confirm if the entry is still available. Once you have the greenlight, you have one month to submit your entry.  Entries are accepted on a rolling basis till all “pioneers” are covered.

What are the requirements for an entry?  All submissions have to meet the following criteria:
    Typed in microsoft word and no more than 2000 words (including all references)
    Use endnotes to cite all references and outside work consulted
    Provide a picture of the person where possible (please make sure there are no copyright restrictions).

Content of entries.  All entries should aim to include the following information:
    Early life, including family background
    Educational background
    Professional achievements, focusing especially on the “first” role.
    Contributions the person made to the law, the profession and other social, cultural and political areas as applicable.
    A closing statement why you think the person is a pioneer in the field.

How do I submit my entry?  Email your entry as a word attachment to In the subject line use “PAWLP SUBMISSION”

Enquiries: All inquiries should be directed to:

What happens after I submit my entry? We will review your entry and get back to you as soon as we are done editing. Once your submission is approved, it will be published on our website and in a forthcoming book project.

Contact Info: Institute for African Women in Law;