Friday, December 3, 2010

Grossberg on the Historian as Amicus

In "The Profession" column of the November 2010 issue of Perspectives in History (the American Historical Association's monthly newsmagazine), Michael Grossberg (Indiana University) discusses historians' growing participation in legal cases.

Grossberg co-authored (with Nancy Cott) a historians’ brief in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the recent Massachusetts same-sex marriage case. From that experience, Grossberg concludes that "professional historians can, and should, intervene when the past is central to a particular case."

Participating in the litigation also, he writes,
reinforced [his] belief that historians’ briefs, like other forms of history for audiences beyond our peers, should be recognized as a distinctive kind of historical analysis and one that ought to be critiqued accordingly. They should not be dismissed as mere works of political opinion. Instead we should grapple with the important questions about the use of historical expertise in advocacy raised by this new and increasingly expected role for historians in the judicial process.
You can read the entire column here. You can read the Grossberg & Cott amicus brief here.

Image credit: Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall.