Saturday, June 30, 2012

Welcome, Greg Ablavsky!

We are excited to announce that Greg Ablavsky will be joining us as a guest blogger for the month of July. He brings the perspective of a recent law school graduate (he received his JD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011) and a current doctoral student in history (he is ABD, also at the University of Pennsylvania).

Greg's major work-in-progress is his dissertation, titled "Before Domestic Dependent Nations: Natives and Law in Early America," but he has a few other projects as well. His article "Making Indians 'White': The Judicial Abolition of Native Slavery in Revolutionary Virginia and its Racial Legacy" recently appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. The piece "traces the history of a series of freedom suits brought by Virginia slaves between 1772 and 1806, in which the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia judicially abolished nearly two centuries of American Indian slavery in the colony by ruling that slaves who could prove maternal descent from Native Americans were prima facie free."

He is also collaborating with Stephen Burbank (University of Pennsylvania) and S. Jay Plager (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) on an article titled "Leaving the Bench, 1970-2009: The Choices Federal Judges Make, What Influences Those Choices, and Their Consequences," which is forthcoming in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. The article "explores the decisions that, over four decades, lower federal court judges have made when considering leaving the bench, the influences on those decisions, and their potential consequences for the federal judiciary and society."

Starting in the fall, Greg will be in residence at the University of Pennsylvania Law School as the George Sharswood Fellow in Law and History. Last but not least, Greg serves as the graduate student representative for the American Society of Legal History.

Welcome, Greg Ablavsky!

Deadline extended for 2012 Kathryn T. Preyer Award

image credit
To all those graduate students and junior scholars sitting on unpublished research papers -- the ASLH has extended, by two weeks, the deadline for the Kathyrn T. Preyer Award. The new deadline is July 15. Here's the info:
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. (Whether there is a Kathryn T. Preyer Memorial Panel at the meeting, as there was this year, or whether the Preyer Scholars present their papers as part of other panel depends on the subject-matter of the winning papers and on what is on the rest of the program.) The generosity of Professor Preyer's friends and family has enabled the Society to offer a small honorarium to the Preyer Scholars and to reimburse, in some measure or entirely, their costs of attending the meeting. The competition for Preyer Scholars is organized by the Society's Kathryn T. Preyer Memorial Committee.
The application process for 2012:
Submissions are welcome on any topic in legal, institutional and/or constitutional history.  Early career scholars, including those pursuing graduate or law degrees, those who have completed their terminal degree within the previous year, and those independent scholars at a comparable state, are eligible to apply. Papers already submitted to the ASLH Program Committee--whether or not accepted for an existing panel--and papers never previously submitted are equally eligible. 
Papers must not exceed 40 pages and must contain supporting documentation.  In past competitions, the Committee has given preference to draft articles and essays, though the Committee will still consider shorter conference papers.
Submissions should include a complete curriculum vitae, contact information, and a complete draft of the paper to be presented. The draft may be longer than could be presented in the time available at the meeting (twenty minutes) and should contain supporting documentation, but one of the criteria for selection will be the suitability of the paper for reduction to a twenty-minute oral presentation. The deadline for submission is June 30, 2012 [July 15, 2012]. The Preyer Scholars will be named by August 1. 
Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars will receive a $250 cash award and reimbursement of expenses up to $750 for travel, hotels, and meals. Each will present the paper that s/he submitted to the competition at the Society's annual meeting in St. Louis, MO on November 8-11, 2012.  The Society’s journal, Law and History Review, has published several past winners of the Preyer competition, though is under no obligation to do so.
Please send submissions as Microsoft Word attachments to the chair of the Preyer Committee, Gautham Rao.  He will forward them to the other committee members.
The other members of the committee are Sally Hadden (Western Michigan University
), Christopher W. Schmidt (Chicago-Kent College of Law
), Michael A. Schoeppner (California Institute of Technology
), and Karen Tani (University of California, Berkeley).

For more information, including the names of the 2011 Preyer scholars, follow the link and scroll down.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tanenhaus on the Juvenile Justice Decision

David S. Tanenhaus, Nevada-Las Vegas Law and History, the author of several books on the history of juvenile justice, and the outgoing editor of Law & History Review, has an op-ed in the New York Times on the Supreme Court's decision banning mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders.  It commences:
The Supreme Court’s decision this week to ban mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for offenders younger than 18 is an emphatic rejection of the “get tough” juvenile justice policies of the 1980s and 1990s, which punished children as if they were adults. Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan’s clear statement not only recognized the political and biological principle that children are different from adults but at last also inscribed it into constitutional law.

"My Whole Life" Redux

[HNN, which carried my post on Charles Evans Hughes when it originally appeared back in April, offered to send it out again if I added a introduction in light of the NFIB v. Sebelius.  Here it is.]

I'm not going to pretend that I know exactly why Chief Justice John Roberts left the four other Republican appointees on the Supreme Court and joined the four other Democratic appointees to uphold the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act--after all, after seventy-five years, we still don't know exactly why Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes broke with the four implacably conservative members of his Court and, bringing Owen Roberts with him, joined three liberal justices to uphold landmark New Deal legislation.  Still, I would be very surprised if Roberts was not moved by the same concern for legitimacy of the institution over which he and Hughes have presided.  Although he could not bring Justices Alito, Kennedy, Scalia or Thomas with him, he nonetheless avoided what Jeffrey Rosen of the George Washington University Law School called on Thursday’s Diane Rehm Show “the kind of partisan, polarized, five-to-four, Republicans-versus-Democrats” outcome that was the great “fear of many people who care about the bipartisan legitimacy of the Court.”

Roberts, no less than Hughes, has had a life “spent in work conditioned upon respect for the courts.”  He clerked for two eminent federal judges, Henry Friendly and William Rehnquist, he worked in the Solicitor General’s office; he became one of the leading Supreme Court advocates of his generation while at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, and he served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  While his nomination as Associate Justice was pending, Rehnquist died, and President George W. Bush named him to succeed his judicial mentor as Chief Justice.  After his confirmation, Roberts told Rosen, in an interview published in The Atlantic, that in times of great political division, “[t]here ought to be some sense of some stability, if the government is not going to polarize completely.  It’s a high priority to keep any kind of partisan divide out of the judiciary as well.”

In his opinion in the ACA case, Roberts seemed intent on redirecting the tidal wave of partisan controversy bearing down the Court back toward Congress and the White House. “We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies,” he wrote.  “That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders.  We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.”  In the same expansive tone, he reassured Tea Party Patriots and other devotees of the Tenth Amendment that although “Obamacare” was the law of the land they still lived in a country where “the National Government possesses only limited power” and “the States and the people retain the remainder.”  Upholding the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause would not have been comforting, because the argument that individuals who refused to buy health insurance were engaging in commerce opened, as Roberts wrote, “a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.  Every day individuals do not do an infinite number of things.”  The “little tax power argument that could,” as its most prominent proponent, Jack Balkin of the Yale Law School calls it, will, I think, prove to be a far less controversial justification.

I don’t doubt that today’s Frankfurters will find much to wretch over in the decision.  Already law professors have observed (for example, here and here) that, when combined with the votes of the four dissenters, Roberts’s rejection of the Commerce Power moves the Court further from the position that it gave Congress plenary power to regulate, which prevailed between Wickard v. Filburn (1942) and United States v. Lopez (1995).  His dismissal of the Government’s second argument–that the individual mandate was “necessary and proper” to the regulation of the insurance industry–also troubles some, because the Court has never before treated the word “proper” as a substantive limitation on Congress.  Even his discussion of tax power is concerning, for Roberts wrote that Congress’s use of it “to influence conduct is not without limits” and supported the proposition with cases that predated the so-called Constitutional Revolution of 1937.

That Roberts’s captured some new terrain in the ongoing battles of constitutional lawyers strikes me as less important than what he did when he realized that the war for judicial independence was in the balance.  Whether in conference, held shortly after the argument in late March, or, as some close readers of the dissenting opinions suspect (here and here), sometime later in the justices’ consideration of the case, Roberts acted to preserve the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.  Hughes would have understood and approved.

Glennon reviews Green, "The Bible, the School, and the Constitution"

Steven Green's THE BIBLE, THE SCHOOL, AND THE CONSTITUTION: THE CLASH THAT SHAPED MODERN CHURCH-STATE DOCTRINE (Oxford University Press) is the subject of a new review, from the Law and Politics Book Review. Reviewer Colin Glennon (Fort Lewis College) recommends the book to "anyone interested in constitutional questions surrounding the separation of church and state, the history of the formation of public schools in the United States, or those with a curiosity toward religious history in public policy." Here's more:
In a major contribution to the perpetual conflict between church and state, Green traces the debate from formation of early public schools in America with intensive study of the debate surrounding the proper role of religion in the nation’s schools, the School Question as it came to be known, from 1869 to 1876. As Green declares: “One cannot appreciate the Supreme Court’s modern church-state jurisprudence without understanding the development of the School Question during the nineteenth century” (p.8).

. . .

A common theme throughout the book is clarifying the depth of the School Question in its original context. Green points out that while today religious activity in public schools and the direction of public funds to parochial schools are distinct and separate matters of debate, this was not always the case: “For the nation’s first 150 years, controversies over school prayer and school funding were inseparable” (p.7). In fact, Green points out that initially the debate over teaching religious morality in school centered on the best way to do so, not whether or not it was to be done.
Read on here.

Also in the most recent batch of LPBR reviews:
  • Jeffrey B. Robb reviews (here) LONE STAR LAW: A LEGAL HISTORY OF TEXAS, by Michael Ariens.
  • Samuel B. Hoff reviews (here) A DISTINCT JUDICIAL POWER: THE ORIGINS OF AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY, 1606-1787, by Scott Douglas Gerber.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

More Mack on "Representing the Race"

Kenneth Mack, Harvard Law School, will be discussing Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer today in an interview on NPR's "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin (with guest host Viviana Hurtaldo).  Check your local listings for the time the show airs on your public radio station.  After the broadcast, it may be heard here.

On Monday, July 23, Mack will read from the book at Politics and Prose in Northwest DC at 7PM.

“My Whole Life Has Been Spent in Work Conditioned upon Respect for the Courts”

[In light of Chief Justice Roberts's vote in today's Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, I will indulge myself and move up this post from April.]

As the debate over Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan raged seventy-five years ago, the President’s spokesmen made political hay by quoting from a speech Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes had delivered years earlier as governor of New York.  “We are under a Constitution,” Hughes told an audience of 2,000 packed into a theater in Elmira, “but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.” 

Ignore the original context, as FDR’s spokesmen did, and the quote fit easily into their argument in favor of the plan.  Justices did not find or declare preexisting constitutional law; they made it.  In making theirs, the superannuated justices of the Hughes Court drew upon the values of a bygone era.  America would be better served by justices whose values originated in modern times.

Had the spokesmen wanted to take the measure of the President’s principal judicial adversary, rather than score points, they would have done better to considered the quote’s context.  Hughes was attempting to rally support for the Public Utilities Commissions Act of 1907, a landmark in the history of regulation.  Business opposed the law unless it granted them the right to retry the decisions of the commission in an appeal to the judiciary.  Hughes insisted on less intrusive judicial review:
I have the highest regard for the courts.  My whole life has been spent in work conditioned upon respect for the courts.  I reckon him one of the worst enemies of the community who will talk lightly of the dignity of the bench.  We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is, and the judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our property under the Constitution.  I do not want to see any direct assault upon the courts, nor do I want to see any indirect upon the courts.  And I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, no more insidious assault could be made upon the independence and esteem of the judiciary than to burden it with these questions of administration–questions which lie close to public impatience, and in regard to which the people are going to insist on having administration by officers directly accountable to them.
Hughes was advocating judicial restraint in the review of orders of administrative agencies, not legislation; still, I thought of his subtle understanding of judicial power and judicial legitimacy last weekend as I finished reading James F. Simon’s FDR and Chief Justice Hughes (Simon & Schuster, 2012).  Simon’s book, which will be the subject of a symposium at the New York Law School this afternoon, alternates between FDR and Hughes.  For me, at least, Simon’s treatment of Hughes is more compelling, because he shows that the jurist never foreswore the allegiance to the judiciary that he affirmed at Elmira.  When a sharply divided Supreme Court and Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan jeopardized “the independence and esteem of the judiciary,” Hughes saw to it that his ideal of the judiciary as a repository of reason would survive.  He preserved that ideal–and, as we might say today, “won”–by following his own advice: he extracted his Court from “questions which lie close to public impatience” by crafting decisions that upheld controversial legislation from constitutional challenge.

Frankfurter and DC Minimum Wage Case: The View from the Adkins Papers

Jesse C. Adkins (1912)
Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (U.S. 1923) is a landmark in the constitutional history of the United States.  The Supreme Court’s invalidation of the District of Columbia’s minimum wage law, after many progressives thought that the Court had overruled its liberty-of-contract precedents sub silentio, made the case an instant sensation.  It remains of special interest for constitutional and legal historians, many of whom (including Vivien Hart, Michael Parrish, and Ellen Zimmerman) have thoroughly mined correspondence in Felix Frankfurter’s Papers at the Library of Congress.

I write now to note the existence of seven letters from Frankfurter about the case the Jesse C. Adkins Papers in the Special Collections Department of the Georgetown University Law Library.  I believe they have escaped historians’ notice; in any event, they are not listed in the indispensable census of manuscript collections compiled by the History Office of the Federal Judicial Center.  To be sure, several also survive in the Library of Congress’s collection, and none really alters our understanding of Frankfurter’s role in the case, which commenced with the appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia of the trial court’s decision upholding the law.  Still, they help with the atmospherics of the case. 

Jesse Corcoran Adkins (1879-1955) was a well-regarded practitioner, a former Assistant Attorney General, and a quondam professor at his alma mater, the Georgetown Law School when he was appointed to the DC Minimum Wage Board in October 1919.  He and Frankfurter enjoyed cordial relations, apparently dating from the Taft administration, when Frankfurter was in the War Department and Adkins in the Department of Justice.  The Harvard law professor felt close enough to the Washington lawyer to urge him to “publicly come out against the Women’s Party Amendment.”  (Frankfurter called this early version of the Equal Rights Amendment “a dangerously ‘liberal’ proposal” that would “romantically and blithely” sweep away the power to enact “legislation protective of women who need it.”)

When the case reached the Court of Appeals, one of its members, Charles Robb, was ill.  Wendell P. Stafford, a progressive trial judge, was designated to hear the case together with Josiah Van Orsdel and Constantine Smyth.  Frankfurter had already written Adkins that he could not “believe that even your C. of A. will fail to sustain the law”; “the good fortune that gave us Stafford instead of Robb” made him even more confident of victory.  And, in fact, Stafford and Smyth voted to affirm, over Van Orsdel’s dissent, and overruled a motion to rehear the case.  It happened, however, that the employer’s lawyer, Van Orsdel, and Robb did not take no for an answer.  Instead, they forced a rehearing of the case with Robb back on the panel, in Stafford’s place.  By a 2-1 vote, with Smyth in dissent, they reversed and struck down the law.

Frankfurter was livid. “To me the conduct of Judges Robb and Van Orsdel was nothing short of a scandal,” he fumed.  That Adkins’s “fighting spirit is up about the rehearing” gladdened him.  “The only way to deal with such a ‘raw deal’ is to expose it, with courtesy but firmly.”

The Adkins letters shed only a little light on the conduct of the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.  Frankfurter told Adkins that “your Rent case” (Block v. Hirsch) encouraged him.  He claimed that,“for obvious reasons,” he never talked to Louis Brandeis about his recusal in Bunting v. Oregon.  Although he believed Brandeis was not legally disqualified from hearing Adkins, he also predicted, accurately, that the justice would not do so, “in view of his daughter’s close relation to the litigation.  Alas, too bad!”

The correspondence does help with the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision.  Frankfurter sent Adkins a long letter concluding that the Court had only struck down the statute’s provisions for fixing “the wages of adult workers, sui juris” and had expressly disavowed “the provisions relating to minors.”  Although the doctrine of severability raised “a very serious question,” Frankfurter advised Adkins that his Board should proceed with wage-setting for children and “fact-gathering and wage-recommending.”  “To any student of the impulses and reasons behind this legislation there can be very little doubt that Congress would have passed as much of this legislation as it Constitutionally could pass.”

Further, Frankfurter advised against a rehearing in the U.S. Supreme Court and reported that this was Roscoe Pound’s view as well.  Minimum wagers should wait for a “case to come up from some other jurisdiction” or “try for another law” in the District of Columbia, he told Adkins.  “We should vigorously drive for [a] new law from Congress, which will meet some of Sutherland’s language.”  Although Frankfurter promised “details of this soon,” the correspondence in the Adkins Papers ends here.  We learn from Hart and others that Frankfurter was thinking of Sutherland’s dictum that a law setting wages according to “the value of the service rendered,” rather than an estimate of a female worker's economic need, might pass constitutional muster.

[Thanks to Megan Buckley for her research assistance and Hannah Miller for help in consulting the Adkins Papers.]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Immigrants and Absconding Embezzlers in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Just in time for the Arizona immigration case, the latest (gated) issue of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era includes a symposium on John Higham’s Strangers in the Land.  My Georgetown colleague Katherine Benton-Cohen views the book from the vantage of Western History. 

Also in the issue is another installment of the work of Katherine Unterman, Texas A&M, on the history of extradition.  This one is Boodle over the Border: Embezzlement and the Crisis of International Mobility, 1880–1890:
Roughly 2,000 American fugitives fled to Canada in the 1880s—mostly clerks, cashiers, and bank tellers charged with embezzlement. This article argues that these “boodlers,” as they were popularly called, were symptomatic of a late-nineteenth-century crisis of mobility. Embezzlement was a function of new kinds of mobility: migration to cities, the rise of an upwardly mobile middle class, the fungibility of greenbacks, and the growth of international transportation networks. The boodlers were some of the earliest white-collar criminals. By focusing on their unexplored story, this article contributes to the growing literature that presents the clerk as an important figure in nineteenth-century labor history. Still, the boodlers also had a more unexpected impact on the evolution of the United States' international borders, both in the popular imagination and in actual surveillance and law enforcement techniques. Through the figure of the boodler, this article examines the links between the growth of capitalism and the development of the United States–Canada border in the late nineteenth century.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

McDonnell reviews Wilf, "Law's Imagined Republic"

In the latest issue of Common-place, you'll find a review of Law's Imagined Republic: Popular Politics and Criminal Justice in Revolutionary America (Cambridge University Press), by Steven Wilf. Here's an excerpt from the review, by Michael McDonnell (University of Sydney, Australia).
In this lively little book, Steven Wilf, the Joel Barlow Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut, encourages Americans to re-imagine a time when legal discourse was not just confined to the courts. Since the nineteenth century, most ideas about the legal legacy of the American Revolution have put the Constitution front and center, privileged the story of the rise of court-based jurisprudence, and especially the importance of constitutional interpretation through judicial review. The Revolution, the story goes, created a nation dedicated to the rule of law. Yet in a provocative cultural and literary analysis, Wilf compels us to look closely at the proliferation of "law talk" across the colonies in the era of the American Revolution—a legal language that was both elite and popular, spanned different forms of expression from words to rituals, and drew on fictive and real ideas of law. And, because this law talk emerged simultaneously with the imperial crisis, a "revolutionary legal language became intimately intertwined with politics" and transformed America's legal institutions. While we may now remember a less contentious outcome, Wilf makes a compelling case that we would do well to recall the "untidy" origins of American law in an era when the Constitution is America's "most important export" (195).
Read on here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Legal History at SHAFR

There is much legal history at the annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, to be held in Hartford, CT, later this week.  Clara Altman, our Facebook Coordinator, is presenting a paper, on a panel chaired by former Guest Blogger Chris Capozzola -- who also comments on another panel.  John Fabian Witt is also serving as a commentator.  At Thursday evening's plenary at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, which takes up an important diplomatic history text, Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations: Reflecting on the 1991 and 2004 Editions While Looking Forward, I plan to discuss the ways that legal history and foreign relations history need each other.  Panels of interest include:

Thursday, June 28

Panel 11: Connecting Foreign Relations and Domestic Law in the Early Republic 
Chair: [I will be substituting for Lauren A. Benton, New York University]

“The Means of Preventing Disputes with Foreign Nations”: The Federal Courts and Foreign Relations in the 1790s, Kevin Arlyck, New York University

Sovereignty, Neutrality, Non-recognition: International Economic Policy after Haitian Independence, Julia Gaffield, Duke University

Race and Rights in Anglo-American Relations: A Diplomatic Antecedent to Dred Scott, Michael Schoeppner, American Council of Learned Societies

Comment: John Fabian Witt, Yale Law School
Friday, June 29

Panel 20: From Words to Deeds: Actualizing Human Rights in the Wake of the Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s
Chair: Carol Anderson, Emory University

Seeking Evolution, Not Revolution in Apartheid South Africa: The AFL-CIO and South African Unions, 1979-1984, John Stoner, University of Pittsburgh

A New Moral Shield or Something More? Understanding the Origins of Congressional Human Rights Consciousness in the 1970s, Rachel Traficanti, University of Connecticut

Exceptional Circumstances: Jimmy Carter and the Salvadoran Crisis, 1977-1981, Adam Wilsman, Vanderbilt University

Comment: Carol Anderson
Panel 24: Perspectives on Imperial Rule: The United States in the Philippines in the Early Twentieth Century
Chair: Christopher Capozzola, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Legal Archipelago of U.S. Occupation: American Military Justice and the Colonial State in the Philippines, 1898-1902, Clara Altman, Brandeis University

The Dilemma of “Accountable” State-building: Establishing Education Institutions in Colonial Taiwan versus the Philippines in the Early Twentieth Century, Reo Matsuzaki, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Stanford University

Make Trade, Not War: Marketplaces and Market Relations in the U.S. Colonial Philippines, Rebecca Tinio McKenna, University of Notre Dame

Codifying Religion: The Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes and American Imperial Rule in the Philippines, 1901-1913, Karine Walther, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qatar

Comment: Anne Foster, Indiana State University
Panel 28: Policing the Globe: International Law Enforcement and Drug Control in the Age of American Empire
Chair: William B. McAllister, Office of the Historian, Department of State, and Georgetown University

Organizing Violence in East Asia: The Philippines Under Ferdinand Marcos, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Harvard University

Locating the Origins of the “War on Drugs” in the Revolutionary Aftermath of World War II, Suzanna J. Reiss, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Junkies in the Shining City: Exceptionalism and Addiction in the American Century, Matt Pembleton, American University

Unjust Aftermath: Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering in Post-Noriega Panama, Jonathan Marshall, Independent Scholar

Comment: William B. McAllister
Saturday, June 30

Panel 46: Philanthropy, Empire, and Manliness: Recognizing International Law, 1899-1935
Chair: Sarah B. Snyder, University College London

International Law and American Pro-Boers, Jennifer A. Sutton, Washington University in St. Louis

Neither Jingoes nor Pacifists: Legitimizing International Law through Professional Manhood, 1905-1917, Benjamin A. Coates, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Fortunes of a Profession: American Foundations and the International Law Community, 1910-1935, Katharina Rietzler, Cambridge University

Comment: Mary L. Dudziak, University of Southern California
And there are many other papers and panels of interest.  I hope to see LHB readers at SHAFR!

Muller in the NYT on Images of Heart Mountain

Eric Muller, University of North Carolina, has an essay in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times, Injustice, in Kodachrome, which features Bill Manbo's photographs from his internment at Heart Mountain during World War II.  A slide show of Manbo's photos is on the NYT website.  The book, which will be out in August from the University of North Carolina Press, is Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II. While LHB readers may be familiar with black and white image from the camps taken by Dorothea Lange and others, one striking feature of Manbo's photographs is that they are in color.

Here's the book description:
In 1942, Bill Manbo and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. While there, Manbo documented both the bleakness and beauty of his surroundings, using Kodachrome film, a technology then just seven years old, to capture community celebrations and to record his family's struggle to maintain a normal life under the harsh conditions of racial imprisonment. Colors of Confinement showcases sixty-five stunning images from this extremely rare collection of color photographs, presented along with three interpretive essays by leading scholars and a reflective, personal essay by a former Heart Mountain internee.

The subjects of these haunting photos are the routine fare of an amateur photographer: parades, cultural events, people at play, Manbo's son. But the images are set against the backdrop of the barbed-wire enclosure surrounding the Heart Mountain Relocation Center and the dramatic expanse of Wyoming sky and landscape. The accompanying essays illuminate these scenes as they trace a tumultuous history unfolding just beyond the camera's lens, giving readers insight into Japanese American cultural life and the stark realities of life in the camps.
Eric blogs about it at Faculty Lounge.  And there is more info at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, which supported the project. Congratulations to Eric!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pettinicchio reviews Pelka, "An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement"

In 2004, freelance writer Fred Pelka received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support the research and writing of What WE Have Done: An Oral History of the Disability Rights Movement, recently published by the University of Massachusetts Press. David Pettinicchio (University of Washington) has reviewed the book for Mobilizing Ideas, an online publication hosted by the Center for the Study of Social Movements at Notre Dame. Here's a taste:
The book is based on in-depth interviews mostly with key activists from three sources: Pelka’s own interviews, interviews recorded by the group Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and oral histories from the Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. The book is structured around key events and places in the disability rights struggle, predominantly focusing on the politics of the Americans with Disabilities Act (although the interviews and accounts capture a lengthy historical period as many of those interviewed provide recollections of the past going back as far as the 1950s).
In Pettinicchio's view, the book "is not framed around any particular sociological analysis" but is rather "a story of disability rights as told by those involved in the movement." He predicts that it will interest "anyone who studies social movements, collective action, and activism, as well as those interested more specifically in disability rights."

Read more of the review here. The book's TOC is available here.

Hat tip: bookforum

Friday, June 22, 2012

CFP: Refiguring the 1970s: New Narratives in U.S. and International History

University of Chicago Graduate Student Conference
Refiguring the 1970s: New Narratives in U.S. and International History
April 26–27, 2013

We invite doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars to submit proposals to attend a conference, “Refiguring the 1970s: New Narratives in U.S. and International History,” to be held at the University of Chicago on April 26–27, 2013.

This conference capitalizes on the changing historiographic moment to offer a forum for graduate students from throughout the country (and abroad) to share the most innovative work on the 1970s. Rather than view U.S. and international history as two isolated fields,this conference will explore interrelated and overlapping themes. The 1970s saw the rise of formal equality in equal rights movements for women, gays, people of color, the disabled, and even animals; the decade brought both the end of formal empire throughout the globe and the rise of human rights as a transnational politics and ideology. At the same time, market values and individualism worked to supplant more collective visions of society— what was once “public” gradually became the proper purview of the “private”— engendering the rise of neoliberal free-market economics and the dismantling of the welfare state. How do we explain the tension at the heart of these seemingly contradictory trends? And how might a conference that explores the intersection of U.S. and international history shed light on these developments?

Four guest scholars who have done critical recent work on the 1970s will participate in the conference: Daniel Rodgers (Princeton, author of The Age of Fracture); Tim Borstelmann (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, author of The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality), Matt Lassiter (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, author of The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South) and Mary Dudziak (USC Gould School of Law, author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences).

The conference will pair each presenter with a faculty commentator drawn from our guest scholars and history department faculty at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Interested graduate students and postdoctoral scholars should send a one-page proposal and one-page CV (both in PDF format) to by November 1, 2012. Applicants will be notified about the status of their application in December. All questions should be addressed to Katy Schumaker and Patrick Kelly at

New Release: Fox, "Three Worlds of Relief"

Readers interested in race, citizenship, immigration, social welfare policy, and the on-the-ground implementation of New Deal reform will want to check out this new release from Princeton University Press: Three Worlds of Relief: Race, Immigration, and the American Welfare State from the Progressive Era to the New Deal, by sociologist Cybelle Fox (University of California, Berkeley). Here's the Press's description:
Three Worlds of Relief examines the role of race and immigration in the development of the American social welfare system by comparing how blacks, Mexicans, and European immigrants were treated by welfare policies during the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Taking readers from the turn of the twentieth century to the dark days of the Depression, Cybelle Fox finds that, despite rampant nativism, European immigrants received generous access to social welfare programs. The communities in which they lived invested heavily in relief. Social workers protected them from snooping immigration agents, and ensured that noncitizenship and illegal status did not prevent them from receiving the assistance they needed. But that same helping hand was not extended to Mexicans and blacks. Fox reveals, for example, how blacks were relegated to racist and degrading public assistance programs, while Mexicans who asked for assistance were deported with the help of the very social workers they turned to for aid.
Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence, Fox paints a riveting portrait of how race, labor, and politics combined to create three starkly different worlds of relief. She debunks the myth that white America's immigrant ancestors pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, unlike immigrants and minorities today. Three Worlds of Relief challenges us to reconsider not only the historical record but also the implications of our past on contemporary debates about race, immigration, and the American welfare state.
Cybelle Fox (credit)
And a few blurbs.
"Three Worlds of Relief is theoretically important, empirically rich, and a major contribution to scholarship on race, immigration, and welfare policy. Fox brings together the experiences of Mexicans, white immigrants, and African Americans into a single account, in the process enriching current knowledge of each group's history in the United States and illuminating how these histories fed into government policy. Three Worlds of Relief is an outstanding work of scholarship. Fox traces the distinct paths of blacks, Mexicans, and white immigrants as they were incorporated into the American welfare state in the key decades culminating in the New Deal. Her argument is fresh and original, her research meticulous, and her prose elegant. Three Worlds of Relief is an intellectual tour de force that sets a new scholarly agenda"--Desmond King, author of Separate and Unequal: African Americans and the U.S. Federal Government
"Cybelle Fox's Three Worlds of Relief demonstrates that U.S. social policies in their formative years provided disparate treatment by race and ethnicity. Political, labor-market, and racial contexts advantaged European immigrants and disadvantaged African Americans and Mexican immigrants. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the origins of the uneven U.S. welfare state, its race and ethnic politics, and political dilemmas today."--Edwin Amenta, University of California, Irvine
Chapter 1 and the TOC are available here.

CFP: The Irish Legal Diaspora

A big hat tip to the Edinburgh Legal History Blog for the pointer to the call for an interesting conference sponsored by the Irish Legal History Society on the Irish Legal Diaspora on July 7-8, 2013:
The Irish Legal History Society would like to invite Irish and international scholars to Dublin in order to celebrate the global significance of the Irish legal diaspora. For centuries the reality of Irish immigration has included qualified lawyers and persons who would qualify abroad. They served at all levels of the first and second British Empires, in the United States, in the former dominions and colonies that became the British Commonwealth and the independent states that grew from it. The objective of this conference is to gain an understanding of these people, their political outlook and the contribution made to their new countries.

This event is supported by the Irish Legal History Society as part of its 25th anniversary celebrations. The dates of this conference, 7-8 July 2013, dovetail with the British Legal History Conference that will be held at the University of Glasgow on 10-13 July 2013. Some participants may wish to attend both events.

Proposals of less than 500 words for papers relating to the Irish legal diaspora in any part of the world should reach the organisers by 30 September 2012. Contributors who are unsure whether their proposals suitably reflect the conference theme should contact the organisers at the email address below.

A draft programme and details of registration and accommodation will be circulated early in 2013. Selected papers may be chosen for inclusion in a future publication of the Irish Legal History Society.

The conference email is; the conference subcommittee: Mr Robert Marshall, Dr Niamh Howlin, Ms Yvonne Mullen, Dr Thomas Mohr

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Form in Legal History (Updated)

[I'm moving up this post, which originally appeared on April 2, because, for this month only, Taylor & Francis is granting free access to the issue of Rethinking History that contains Mark Weiner's poems.  DRE.]

Legal historians, like other members of the historical profession, tend to devote more attention to the substance of their scholarship than to its form.  The last few weeks have seen the publication of two exceptional works.  One is the play Owning Hazard, A Tragedy, Barbara Young Welke’s contribution to Law As . . . Theory and Method in Legal History, a symposium issue of the UC Irvine Law Review that gathers together to fruits of a conference organized by UCI's Christopher L. Tomlins.  Another is a series of six poems just published by Mark S. Weiner, Rutgers-Newark Law, as A History of the Common Law, in the (gated) journal Rethinking History 16 (March 2012): 1-15.  (Rethinking History showcases “new ways of presenting and interpreting history”; one of its editors–and the editor of this special issue–is James Goodman, whom many LHB readers know as the author of Stories of Scottsboro.)

The present selection heralds a  book of the same name that, when completed, will include about thirty poems and constitute “a meditation on the history of the Anglo-American legal tradition as the coeval development of historical consciousness and a distinctive awareness of the self.”  Weiner is addressing that topic in another project "The Rule of the Clan," a book that will draw upon his work on Icelandic sagas and is more “straightforward in its presentation of ideas about individualism and state development.”  (You may listen to an installment, delivered a few weeks ago at Brigham Young University's David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.)  But Weiner also felt the need for a more allusive approach to the topic that draws upon literature and the visual arts.  Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony, “a great poetic treatment of law’s lived presence,” is one of Weiner’s influences; so is Miró’s "Still Life with Old Shoe."  He acknowledges that “in the context of a methodologically rather conservative field” his techniques may seem “radical, if not completely mad”; still he is willing to risk some head-shaking because he is convinced that inattention to the “cultural and aesthetic foundations” of liberal constitutionalism is making it vulnerable to assaults from the left and the right.  He writes, “Historians have a vital role to play in developing new modes of expression that can ground a liberal legal consciousness in as wide a spectrum of literary and aesthetic movements as possible.”

The poems appearing in Rethinking History include one found in the first pages of Bishop Stubbs's Constitutional History of England.  Others were inspired by a famous passage in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, children's doggerel, the "mnemonic triads of Welch law," a ghazal, and the aforementioned Miró.

Swanson on Authoring and Patent Production in the 19th C United States

Kara W. Swanson, Northeastern University - School of Law, has an interesting new book chapter: Authoring an Invention: Patent Production in the Nineteenth-Century United States.  It appears in MAKING AND UNMAKING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: CREATIVE PRODUCTION IN LEGAL AND CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE, Mario Biagioli, Peter Jaszi, and Martha Woodmansee, eds., University of Chicago Press, 2011.  Only the abstract is on SSRN:
In modern patent systems, an invention achieves legal existence as a text, the official words of a patent. The patent is a bureaucratic text, a product of multiple individuals linked in a faceless bureaucracy. From the perspective of the legal system, a U.S. patent is not a “literary work” to be protected by copyright but an inscribed verbal act that forms a different type of intellectual property, one that protects an idea rather than particular words. The legal separation between “Authors,” who generate “Writings,” and “Inventors,” who generate “Discoveries,” is considered part of the development of the modern law of intellectual property. This distinction, so doctrinally clear, blurs when one considers the actual process of creating patent texts, an act that might be considered authoring an invention. As the U.S. patent system developed as the world’s first formalized patent regime, a double shift occurred. The production of the patent text moved from the inventor to third parties, while simultaneously the patent text came both legally and culturally to represent the creation of a modern self, much as a literary work came to be seen as the product of an individual author through copyright law. This chapter traces the development of the patent as a unique type of bureaucratic text by examining this transition in American patent practice during the nineteenth century. By the end of the century, patents were authored in the sense that they described the “mental act” of an individual mind. This mind was analogous to the “romantic author” who displayed creative genius in the production of literary works, but the text of patents, unlike literary works, were no longer the product of the inventor’s pen. An inventor became a romantic author who did not write.

Victoria Saker Woeste's "Henry Ford's War on Jews"

Just out from the Stanford University Press is Henry Ford’s War on Jews and the Legal Battle against Hate Speech, by Victoria Saker Woeste of the American Bar Foundation.  According to the Press:
Henry Ford is remembered in American lore as the ultimate entrepreneur—the man who invented assembly-line manufacturing and made automobiles affordable. Largely forgotten is his side career as a publisher of antisemitic propaganda. This is the story of Ford's ownership of the Dearborn Independent, his involvement in the defamatory articles it ran, and the two Jewish lawyers, Aaron Sapiro and Louis Marshall, who each tried to stop Ford's war.

In 1927, the case of Sapiro v. Ford transfixed the nation. In order to end the embarrassing litigation, Ford apologized for the one thing he would never have lost on in court: the offense of hate speech.

Using never-before-discovered evidence from archives and private family collections, this study reveals the depth of Ford's involvement in every aspect of this case and explains why Jewish civil rights lawyers and religious leaders were deeply divided over how to handle Ford.
Here are the blurbs:
"It is not often that I read a book that is as important, well-researched, and well-written as Henry Ford's War. This volume, based upon primary sources that have for the most part never been examined before, brilliantly recreates the legal struggle against Ford's Dearborn Independent and underscores its larger significance. Anyone interested in Henry Ford, in antisemitism, or in legal battles against hate speech will want to read this book."—Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University

"Victoria Saker Woeste gives us great courtroom drama and captures an important historical moment. This will be the definitive work on Henry Ford and his confrontation by American Jews. Woeste not only presents and explains what was at stake on the basis of significant new evidence, she brings to her analysis the legal expertise to exploit a whole body of secondary literature that most historians are simply unable to evaluate."—Richard S. Levy, University of Illinois at Chicago
The book has just received  a notice in the Detroit Legal News

On June 26, the ABF will cohost a launch for the book in the "Million Dollar Courtroom," Room 730, Theodore Levin United States Courthouse, 231 West Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI, which is the same courtroom in which Sapiro v. Ford was tried.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Epstein and Martin on Public Opinion and the Supreme Court

Does Public Opinion Influence the Supreme Court? Possibly Yes (But We’re Not Sure Why) has just been posted by Lee Epstein, University of Southern California, and Andrew D. Martin, Washington University, St. Louis.  It appears in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 13, No. 263, 2010.  The article uses quantitative analysis to test the argument made by Barry Friedman and others that public opinion influences the Supreme Court.  While they find an association between the Court and public opinion, importantly they stress that the association does not prove causality, for "it is equally plausible...that the Justices are simply 'social beings confronted with the plethora of stimuli emanating from American culture, media and politics.' In other words, the same things that influence public opinion may influence the Justices, who are, after all, members of the public too."  Other political science work on public opinion shows that public opinion does not naturally flow up from the public, but is mediated especially by elite discourse and partisan politics.  Taking the causality question seriously should require scholars of the Court take seriously work on what public opinion is, and what forms it in the first place.

Here's Epstein & Martin's abstract:
Using qualitative data and historical methods, Barry Friedman asserts with confidence that “we the people” influence the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Using quantitative data and statistical methods, political scientists are not so sure. Despite their best efforts to validate basic claims about the effect of public opinion on the Court, the evidence remains mixed at best.

We enter this dialogue but in a voice distinct from existing political science work. Rather than explore the relationship between the public and the Court on a term-by-term basis, we analyze it at the level of the case. This allows us to exploit more nuanced public opinion data, as well as to attend to the many other case-level factors that may influence the Court’s decisions.

Based on our analysis, we are prepared to say that Professor Friedman is on to something. When the “mood of the public” is liberal (conservative), the Court is significantly more likely to issue liberal (conservative) decisions. But why is anyone’s guess. Professor Friedman posits that the Justices will bend to the will of the people because the Court requires public support to remain an efficacious branch of government. Our analysis could be read to support this view, but it is equally consistent with another mechanism: that “the people” include the Justices. On this account, the Justices do not respond to public opinion directly, but rather respond to the same events or forces that affect the opinion of other members of the public.

Our study proceeds as follows. In Part II, we briefly review the extant literature, emphasizing the similar methodology it invokes but the varying conclusions it reaches. Parts III and IV describe our methods and findings. We end, in Part V, with the implications of our statistical work for Professor Friedman’s claims, as well as for future research assessing the Court’s response to public opinion.

Tibbs's "Black Power to Prison Power"

Although over at The Faculty Lounge Al Brophy has already noted the publication of From Black Power to Prison Power: The Making of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Labor Union, by Donald F. Tibbs, Drexel Law, we want to note it here as well.  According to Palgrave Macmillan’s website:
This book uses the landmark case Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union to examine the strategies of prison inmates using race and radicalism to inspire the formation of an inmate labor union. It thus rekindles the debate over the triumphs and troubles associated with the use of Black Power as a platform for influencing legal policy and effecting change for inmates. While the ideology of the prison rights movement was complex, it rested on the underlying principle that the right to organize, and engage in political dissidence, was not only a First Amendment right guaranteed to free blacks, but one that should be explicitly guaranteed to captive blacks—a point too often overlooked in previous analyses. Ultimately, this seminal case study not only illuminates the history of Black Power but that of the broader prisoners' rights movement as well.
Here are the blurbs:

"From Black Power to Prison Power feels stunningly new-a book about a prison union, which most of us know absolutely nothing about, even though their case traveled all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 1977. Donald F. Tibbs plumbs the deep history of black power, especially as it relates to criminal justice. He goes back decades before the North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union lawsuit to put it into the context of the emergence of black power, a movement of national and even global dimensions. Tibbs links black power to the movements for feminism, workers' rights, and Civil Rights and along the way joins radical literature, activism, and litigation in a way I have not seen before. Legal history has rarely been so exciting." - Alfred L. Brophy, Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"The plight of black men in prisons has too seldom troubled America, just as the plight of black people generally too often has gone unheeded except in the glare of violence or fear of violence such as conjured up in the raging cry of 'Black Power!' In From Black Power to Prison Power Donald F. Tibbs deftly exposes how racial fears joined anti-radical repression to entrench institutional law and order as a substitute for justice in the development and decision of the too little noticed 1977 US Supreme Court case of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union." - Thomas J. Davis, PhD, JD, author of Race Relations in America

"Donald F. Tibbs has written one of the best examinations of the power of seemingly powerless people to organize, dissent, and secure their rights. This is an extraordinary book that should be read widely and regarded as a must read for anyone interested in the prisoners' rights movement." - Matthew Whitaker, ASU Foundation Professor of History and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, Arizona State University

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Williams on the Tudor Genesis of Edward Coke's Understanding of History and the Common Law

The Tudor Genesis of Edward Coke's Immemorial Common Law has just been posted by Ian Williams, Faculty of Laws, University College London.  It is forthcoming in Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol.43(1), p.103, 2012.  Here's the abstract:
Edward Coke is well-known for his unhistorical approach to the common law and the ensuing myth of the ancient constitution. He is often taken as representative of common lawyers, an important group in the intellectual life of early-modern England. This article seeks to investigate Coke’s views on legal history, expanding upon Pocock’s seminal work in the field by demonstrating that Coke’s historical views were not a Jacobean development or a response to external circumstances. His views had been held, and propagated, since the early stages of his career as a lawyer and were shared by other lawyers. The article uses evidence of Coke’s reading of law books to demonstrate Coke’s historical method, showing how and why he reached unhistorical conclusions about the antiquity of the common law, and why Coke believed those conclusions to be factually accurate. Coke’s method was ahistorical, but used an approach to the understanding of texts which was widespread in early-modern England. The article also shows that Coke’s approach to historical sources can also be seen in the work of other lawyers.

Ghachem on Stock-Jobing and Financial Crisis in Old Regime France

Malick W. Ghachem, University of Maine School of Law, At the Origins of Public Credit: A Story of Stock-Jobbing and Financial Crisis in Prerevolutionary France, in ‘The Financial Crisis of 2008: French and American Responses,” Proceedings of the 2010 Franco-American Legal Seminar {2011): 151-99.
This paper concerns a stock jobbing scandal involving the French Company of the Indies on the eve of the French Revolution. Speculative trading in the company’s shares on the Paris stock market triggered a credit crisis that brought down the king’s chief minister, Calonne, and ushered in the immediate chain of events that led to the collapse of the Old Regime and the beginning of the French Revolution. The episode witnessed the emergence of the modern French notion of “public credit” as a method of protecting the royal finances from the putatively corrupting influences of speculative capitalists. Two dynamics informed this broader development. First, the enterprise of speculative finance was linked to the worst excesses of Old Regime privileges generally. Second, the crisis of 1785-1787 served to displace the traditional notion of “royal credit” as the asset that required protection from the dangers of financial capitalism, making way for a more abstract, less personalized idea of public credit as an instrument and reflection of the financial power of the nation as a whole. That notion of public credit was, in principle, compatible with a monarchical form of government, but did not require a king to make it work.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Triger reviews Friedman, "The Human Rights Culture"

Last August we mentioned the publication of THE HUMAN RIGHTS CULTURE: A STUDY IN HISTORY AND CONTEXT (Quid Pro Books), by Lawrence M. Friedman.The Law & Politics Book Review has now posted a review, by Zvi H. Triger (The Haim Striks School of Law, College of Management Academic Studies, Rishon LeZion, Israel). Here's Triger on Friedman's intervention into the human rights literature:
Friedman argues that the demography of human rights scholars, who are, for the most part, mostly philosophy professors and political theorists, results in scholarship that “has a highly normative flavor” (p.157). Although a sociological approach to this subject is not new, Friedman argues that the meta-questions regarding the reasons for the human rights movements' growing success have largely remained underexplored and unanswered.
And a bit more, on the book's argument:
In eleven short chapters this concise book reconstructs the social history of the human rights movement, while not neglecting its philosophical and legal aspects. Friedman argues that the success of the human rights movements in the past sixty years or so has been a result of a gradually growing culture of human rights. This culture is a product of modernity more than of “Western” values, and therefore it is not surprising to find it budding in non-“Western” countries as well, especially among the educated elites of those counties (pp.74-75). He attributes the rise of the human [*291] rights culture to the rise of "expressive individualism" in both developed countries and among the elites in some non-“Western” countries (pp.48-49).
Read on here.

Steffes's "School, Society and State"

Just out from the University of Chicago Press is a new monograph on an institution that scholars of statebuilding tend to overlook, School, Society, and State: A New Education to Govern Modern America, 1890-1940, by Tracey L. Steffes, an assistant professor of history and education at Brown University.  The Press explains:
“Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife,” wrote John Dewey in his classic work The School and Society. In School, Society, and State, Tracy Steffes places that idea at the center of her exploration of the connections between public school reform in the early twentieth century and American political development from 1890 to 1940.

American public schooling, Steffes shows, was not merely another reform project of the Progressive Era, but a central one. She addresses why Americans invested in public education and explains how an array of reformers subtly transformed schooling into a tool of social governance to address the consequences of industrialization and urbanization. By extending the reach of schools, broadening their mandate, and expanding their authority over the well-being of children, the state assumed a defining role in the education—and in the lives—of American families.

In School, Society, and State, Steffes returns the state to the study of the history of education and brings the schools back into our discussion of state power during a pivotal moment in American political development.