Monday, November 14, 2011

Preyer prizes to Fleming, Schoeppner, Arlyck

Kathryn "Kitty" Preyer (image credit)
This year, the Kathryn T. Preyer award went to three junior scholars: Anne Fleming (University of Pennsylvania), Michael Schoeppner (University of Florida), and Kevin Arlyck (New York University).

Here's a description of the award, from the ASLH website:
Named after the late Kathryn T. Preyer, a distinguished historian of the law of early America known for her generosity to young legal historians, the program of Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars is designed to help legal historians at the beginning of their careers. At the annual meeting of the Society two younger legal historians designated Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars will present what would normally be their first papers to the Society.
Here are the formal citations (courtesy of H-Law):
Anne Fleming -- “The Borrower's Tale: A History of Poor Debtors in Lochner Era New York City

This paper considers the credit industry that catered to the poor and working class populations of NY at the beginning of the 20th century.  It manages to capture both the borrowers’ social worlds and the perspective of reformers, who sought to ameliorate loan sharking by exposing it to healthy competition rather than regulating it out of existence.

Michael Schoeppner -- “Atlantic Emancipations and Originalism: An Atlantic Genealogy of Dred Scott

This essay explores the roots of Justice Taney’s reasoning in Dred Scott, tracing it to an earlier conceptualization of citizenship/subjecthood as frozen in time and essentialized in racial terms.  The history contributes a disturbing and thought-provoking episode of originalism as instrumentally deployed.

Kevin Arlyck -- “Plaintiffs v. Privateers:  Litigation and Foreign Affairs in the Federal Courts, 1816-1825”

This paper considers the “consular litigation” brought in U.S. courts by Spanish and Portuguese consuls against American privateers who were working for revolutionary South American governments.  Those claims became the most effective way that the consuls could press for a change in American foreign policy on neutrality; they also shaped judicial power along the way.
I had the pleasure of attending the panel at which these scholars presented their work.  Chair Mary Sarah Bilder (Boston College) made a point of noting something about each paper that would have caught Kitty Preyer's eye.  Commentator Chuck McCurdy (University of Virginia) agreed that "Kitty would have loved these papers," and gave four reasons: (1) They ask good questions, (2) they display an admirable "patience" with the archives, (3) they engage deeply with legal actors, thereby providing a social history of law, and (4) they report things that other scholars had not noticed or discovered.  The second commentator, Bill Wiecek (Syracuse University), echoed Professor McCurdy's praise. He underlined the depth of the panelists' archival research and the new light they each shed on familiar but important subjects. 

The Preyer Memorial Committee, chaired by Christine Desan (Harvard University), selected the winners from a reportedly terrific pool of applicants.