Friday, April 25, 2014

Deadline Approaching for Oakes and Witt's ICH Seminar

[We are moving this post up, as the deadline of May 1 is approaching.  DRE]

Our friends at the Institute for Constitutional History have announced “Slavery and the Laws of War,” a Jordan Saunders Seminar in Constitutional History to be held for advanced graduate students and junior faculty at the New-York Historical Society this fall.  It will be conducted by two extraordinary scholars.  The first is James Oakes, Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 and The Scorpion's Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War.  The second is John Fabian Witt, Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School, whose most recent book Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History, was awarded the 2013 Bancroft Prize.

Here is the ICH’s description of the seminar:
The abolition of slavery and the advent of humanitarian limits in war have long been viewed as two of the great moral accomplishments of modern history. But we are only recently beginning to see how interconnected these two developments really were. How did Enlightenment laws of war affect the way Americans dealt with slavery in wartime? Or is that the wrong question? Should we ask, instead: How did the way Americans dealt with slavery and emancipation in wartime shape their understanding of the laws of war? Do the successes of antislavery help us understand the character of humanitarian constraints in war? And do the considerable failings of those humanitarian constraints in wartime shed light on the limits of Emancipation? Readings and discussions take up these questions by examining early American wars, beginning with the War of Independence and ending with the Civil War and Reconstruction.
The seminar will tale place on Friday afternoons, 2:00-5:00 p.m., September 19, 26, October 10, and 24, at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York City.

The announcement adds:
The seminar is designed for graduate students and junior faculty in history, political science, law, and related disciplines.  All participants will be expected to complete the assigned readings and participate in seminar discussions.  Although the Institute cannot offer academic credit directly for the seminar, students may be able to earn graduate credit through their home departments by completing an independent research project in conjunction with the seminar.  Please consult with your advisor and/or director of graduate studies about these possibilities.  Space is limited, so applicants should send a copy of their c.v. and a short statement on how this seminar will be useful to them in their research, teaching, or professional development.  Materials will be accepted only by email at until May 1, 2014.  Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter.  For further information, please contact Maeva Marcus at (202) 994-6562 or send an email to

There is no tuition or other charge for this seminar, though participants will be expected to acquire the assigned books on their own.