Saturday, November 30, 2019

Joyce Medal Awarded to Solomon

[We have the following announcement from Anne Twitty, ASLH Secretary, as well as Associate Professor, University of Mississippi, Arch Dalrymple III Department of History.  DRE]

The ASLH occasionally issues the Craig Joyce Medal in recognition of extraordinary service to the Society. This year's recipient is Rayman Solomon, University Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus, Rutgers-Camden. I include here a portion of Bruce Mann's wonderful comments about this most-deserving recipient:
Much of Ray’s professional life has been committed to helping colleagues do their best work by building and strengthening the institutions in which scholars work and gather, whether as dean of his law school or as a life-long member of ASLH. Every president of the Society for at least the last thirty-five years–myself included–has valued Ray’s judgment and skill and pressed him into service. He has served on every ASLH committee of any importance–and more than a few others, as well. If he has ever said “no,” I do not know of it.

We pressed Ray into service because we all knew that, if we wanted something to get done, we should ask Ray. His greatest professional strength is his ability to take complex institutions such as law schools and scholarly societies, which when left unattended naturally devolve toward dysfunction if not outright chaos, and make them functional. And he does this with a skill and modesty that leaves no fingerprints. One day you look around and realize that the institutions are not only working well, but are better versions of what they were.

These are formidable skills, always deployed for good causes. What makes the execution distinctively and quintessentially Ravian–or Solomonic, if you prefer–is Ray himself. He is, if I may mix languages, a shmoozer par excellence, which makes him not only a boon companion and a valued conference-goer, but also someone who can nudge people in the direction they should want to go. He is also, and there is no other way to say it, a genuine mensh, whose integrity, empathy, and kindness make you glad to be part of the organizations he serves.

He is, in sum, a fitting recipient of the Craig Joyce Medal.

Weekend Roundup

  • The Smithsonian’s “Ten Best History Books of 2019" include Sarah Milov’s The Cigarette: A Political History and Sara Seo’s Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.
  •  Mishal Khan has posted this on race and slavery in India's legal history, over at openDemocracy.
  •  ICYMI: "National Theatre to tackle Scotland's 'often unspoken' slave trade history" (The Scotsman).  The history of the York County (PA) bar celebrated
Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

CFP: Constitutionalism & the American Presidency

The Missouri Valley History Conference has issued a CFP for its next annual meeting, on the theme “Constitutionalism & the American Presidency.”  The meeting will take place on March 12-14, 2020, at the University of Nebraska Omaha.  The extended (and final) deadline for submissions is December 13, 2019.
Please join us as we launch a new era in the history of the Missouri Valley History Conference!

In 2020, we are proud to bring the conference to our beautiful metropolitan campus.  We will utilize the facilities and resources of Mammel Hall on our Scott (South) Campus for conference events and sessions, while enjoying the abundant hotel, restaurant, and entertainment opportunities in the adjacent Aksarben Village district.  See   Official lodging and block rates for the MVHC will be provided by the Marriott Courtyard and Marriott Residence Inn, both located just a short walk from Mammel Hall.  We are confident that our new venues will provide a host of conveniences, savings, and benefits to conference participants.

The 2020 conference theme is “Constitutionalism & the American Presidency,” and we encourage the submission of papers and panels that are related to the broad fields of constitutional and presidential history.  As always, however, proposals for papers and panels on topics related to all time periods and historical subfields are welcome.  We are also pleased to announce the conference keynote talk: “Andrew Jackson in the Age of Trump,” presented by Dr. Daniel Feller, Professor of History and Director/Editor, Papers of Andrew Jackson, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, via the OAH Distinguished Lecturer Program.

All proposals—whether for individual papers or panels—should be digitally submitted to Dr. Mark Scherer, 2020 MVHC Coordinator at, on or before the deadline indicated above.  Proposals should adhere to the following guidelines:

For Individual papers, transmit the following items as ONE file attachment:
    Name, affiliation, and contact information, including email and phone number;
    Short CV;
    Brief abstract (no more than 300 words)

For panel submissions (papers or round table colloquia), transmit the following items as ONE file attachment:
    Name, affiliation, and contact information for each panel participant, designating one panelist as the organizer and chair;
    Short CV for each panel participant;
    Brief abstract (no more than 300 words) for each panelist’s paper;
    Brief “panel” abstract describing the panel’s scope (no more than 500 words)

The 2020 MVHC continues its partnership with Phi Alpha Theta (PAT) and the Society for Military History (SMH). For further information on registration and programming for the Phi Alpha Theta Nebraska Regional, please contact Dr. David Vail ( or see  Most MVHC sessions concerning military topics will be hosted by the SMH.  Proposals for papers and panels most directly related to military history should be submitted to George Eaton, Regional Director of the Society for Military History, at  Both MVHC and PAT award prizes for best undergraduate and graduate student papers.  SMH and the First Division Museum sponsor prizes for the best student papers in military history.   Eligibility for student awards requires conference registration and presentation.

Contact Info: Mark R. Scherer, Professor of History, Coordinator, 2020 MVHC, University of Nebraska-Omaha.  Contact Email:
--Dan Ernst

Dudziak Prize Co-Winners: "O Say Can You See" and the Scottish Court of Sessions Digital Archive

What a pleasure it is here at the Legal History Blog, founded by Mary Dudziak (Emory University), to report the winners of the inaugural Mary L. Dudziak Digital Legal History Prize. About the prize:
The Dudziak Prize, named in honor of Mary L. Dudziak, a leading scholar of twentieth century U.S. legal history and international relations as well as a digital history pioneer, is awarded annually to an outstanding digital legal history project. These projects may take the form of either traditionally published peer reviewed scholarship or born-digital projects of equivalent depth and scope.
This year's co-winners are: 
O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C. Law and Family and its Anna Film


The official citation from the prize committee:
The O Say Can You See Project merited the Dudziak Prize because it does more than merely put content online that could be digested in print form. Rather, it uses the internet platform to enable others to access 509 D.C. Circuit Court, Maryland state, and U.S. Supreme Court petitions for freedom. The creators have also modeled more than 55,000 relationships between the participants in these cases. They also included engaging essays by legal historians about these sources and the broader historical context. And, in 2018, the creators unveiled an 11-minute animated film, Anna, which has been widely used in secondary schools to teach students about the history of slavery and freedom. Overall, we were impressed by how this project harnessed the power of new media to excite the imaginations of current and future legal historians. 
The Scottish Court of Sessions Digital Archive merited the Dudziak Prize because it is an ambitious multi-institutional effort to digitize Scottish sessions papers from the 1750s to 1840s, which are held by the University of Virginia Law Library and the Library of Congress. The project, which went public in 2018, consists of high-quality scans of approximately 10,000 documents, all expertly tagged using open source and exportable programming. These documents are especially valuable sources because they contain rich narratives of underrepresented groups in the British Atlantic world during the era of the American Revolution. This new archive should help facilitate research on women, enslaved persons, and laborers. Overall, we were impressed by the scholarly significance of this digital archive for the field of British Atlantic studies.
The members of this year's Dudziak Prize Committee were: David Tanenhaus (chair) (University of Nevada, Las Vegas); Lauren Benton (ex officio, President-elect) (Vanderbilt University); Deborah Dinner (Emory University School of Law); Kellan Funk (Columbia Law School). We thank them for their service and offer our congratulations to both winners!
-- Karen Tani

Thank you, Dirk Hartog!

We are delighted to have had Professor Dirk Hartog (Princeton) join us as guest blogger in November 2019. His blogposts are Legal History Through a Rear View Mirror 1, 2, 3, and 4, along with this post on the opening of the Betsy Clark Living Archive. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on everything from when to drop a project to the history (and coolness) of our field, Prof. Hartog! 

--Mitra Sharafi

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Berkovitz's "Law's Dominion"

[We have word of the following publication.  DRE]

Jay R. Berkovitz, Law's Dominion: Jewish Community, Religion, and Family in Early Modern Metz.  Brill Academic Publishers. Pp. xi + 404. Soft cover.  ISBN:  978-90-04-41740-3 

Law’s Dominion
is a detailed study of Jewish communal autonomy in the century prior to the French Revolution.  Set in the city of Metz, this new examination of a vibrant prerevolutionary community draws on a wide spectrum of unknown or underutilized legal sources that tell a story about communal governance, religion, and family that has not been told before. Concentrating on the community’s leadership, public institutions, and judiciary, Law’s Dominion challenges the commonly held assumption that Jewish life was in a steady state of decline before the French Revolution. To the contrary, it presents a portrait of a robust community that integrated religious values and civic consciousness, interacted with French society, and showed remarkable signs of collaboration between Jewish law, general law, and the French judicial system.

The focus of Law’s Dominion is the emergence of “the rule of law” as the basic principle of Jewish social and political organization. Law served as the community’s core cultural value and as the foundation for the relationship of the Jews to the state and the surrounding society. Through the process of juridification—the institutionalization of law and judicial frameworks—vast areas of communal life were subsumed under the authority of the law, particularly as the community took greater notice of external legal and judicial systems. Building on the author’s previous works, Law’s Dominion offers new evidence of how practitioners of Jewish law, as well as its consumers, navigated the Jewish and French legal systems. Communal registers of the Metz Kahal, judicial records of the rabbinic court and Metz Parlement, rabbinic responsa literature, and the French translation of Jewish law commissioned by French authorities furnish a wider framework and  broader context for the analysis of Jewish law, legislation, and public policy. By focusing on prevailing norms, mechanisms of change, and emerging patterns of legal culture, Law’s Dominion seeks to understand how rabbinic and lay leaders struggled to meet challenges to their authority.

Central to the inquiry undertaken in this new volume is the question of how religion functioned in the early modern period and the degree to which it served the goals of social cohesion and corporate identity. Religion continued to exert a formative, if occasionally contested, impact on the values embraced by communal leaders and on the boundaries that defined relations with the state and society. Rituals embodied modes of thinking about historical origins, about interactions with the surrounding culture and society, and about identification with particular cultural traditions.

In addition to embodying the foregoing themes, legal texts pertaining to family offer entrée into a web of culture and relationships for which there is virtually no other documentation. The majority of cases that came before the Metz Beit Din were related, either directly or indirectly, to inheritance, guardianship of children, marital property, sexuality, and the participation of women in the judicial process. Rulings in these areas, and the legal mechanisms that evolved in response to changing social and economic conditions, contain images of women and family that are strikingly at variance with representations conveyed in prescriptive legal sources alone.

Emerging from this analysis is a new narrative that reconsiders central themes of pre-modern Jewish history:  the nature and scope of Jewish communal autonomy; the relations between the Jews and the state; Jewish interaction with the surrounding society and culture; the multifaceted nexus between acculturation and modernization; lay-rabbinic relations; the role of religion in early modern culture; and transformations in family life.

In sum, Law’s Dominion seeks to elucidate the complicated role of law in the life of a community that faced significant internal and external challenges to its precarious political condition, religious ethos, and cultural identity.

Cromwell Fellowships Announced

We have recently mentioned the series of awards that the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation makes every year and that we celebrate at the annual meeting of the ASLH. Every year the Foundation also makes available a number of $5,000 fellowships to early career scholars, to support research and writing in American legal history. This year's Cromwell Fellowships went to the following scholars and projects:
Michelle Bezark, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University: “'A Bill for Better Babies': The Sheppard-Towner Act and Building a Modern Welfare State”

Hardeep Dhillon, PhD Candidate, History, Harvard University: “Indians on the Move: Law, Borders, and Freedoms at the Turn of the Twentieth Century”

Signe Fourmy, PhD Candidate, History, University of Texas at Austin: “They Chose Death Over Slavery: Enslaved Women and Infanticide in the Antebellum South”

Jose Argueta Funes, JD, Yale Law School, PhD Candidate, Princeton University: “Past as Authority: Law, Property, and Reform in Hawai'i, 1840-1920”

Jamie Grischkan, JD, University of Michigan Law School; PhD Candidate, History, Boston University: “Banking, Law, and American Liberalism: The Rise and Regulation of Bank Holding Companies in the Twentieth Century”

Lauren van Haaften-Schick, PhD Candidate, Art History, Cornell University: “The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement: Origins and Afterlives in Art and Law”

Amanda Kleintop, PhD, History, Northwestern University: “The Balance of Freedom: Abolishing Property Rights in Slaves after the US Civil War”

David Korostyshevsky, PhD Candidate, History, University of Minnesota: “’Incapable of Managing His Estate’: Habitual Drunkenness and Guardianship Law in Nineteenth-Century America”

Naama Maor, PhD Candidate, History, University of Chicago: “Delinquent Parents: Power and Responsibility in Progressive-Era Juvenile Justice”

Bharath Palle, S.J.D. Candidate, Harvard Law School: “Wesley Hohfeld and the Struggle for a Legal Science”

Natalie Shibley, PhD, History and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania: “Race, Homosexuality, and Military Justice, 1941-1993”

Lila Teeters, PhD Candidate, History, University of New Hampshire: “Native Citizens: The Contest over U.S. Indigenous Citizenship, 1880-1924”

Lael Weinberger, JD/PhD Candidate, History, University of Chicago: “The Politics of International Law in the United States, 1912-1954”
The members of this year's Cromwell Fellowship Committee were: Serena Mayeri (Chair) (University of Pennsylvania); Kenneth Mack (Harvard University); Thomas J. McSweeney (College of William & Mary); Yvonne Pitts (Purdue University); Tracy Steffes (Brown University); Katherine Turk (University of North Carolina). We thank them for their service and offer our congratulations to all the new fellows!

-- Karen Tani

Parfitt on the history of international law

Rose Parfitt, University of Kent has published The Process of International Legal Reproduction: Inequality, Historiography, Resistance with Cambridge University Press. From the publisher: 
The Process of International Legal ReproductionThat all states are free and equal under international law is axiomatic to the discipline. Yet even a brief look at the dynamics of the international order calls that axiom into question. Mobilising fresh archival research and drawing on a tradition of unorthodox Marxist and anti-colonial scholarship, Rose Parfitt develops a new 'modular' legal historiography to make sense of the paradoxical relationship between sovereign equality and inequality. Juxtaposing a series of seemingly unrelated histories against one another, including a radical re-examination of the canonical story of Fascist Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, Parfitt exposes the conditional nature of the process through which international law creates and disciplines new states and their subjects. The result is a powerful critique of international law's role in establishing and perpetuating inequalities of wealth, power and pleasure, accompanied by a call to attend more closely to the strategies of resistance that are generated in that process.
Praise for the book:

"What a wonderfully engaging and important book this is. Out of a sophisticated, non-dogmatic Marxist perspective on international law and history, Rose Parfitt develops an analysis of the fundamental inequality of the international legal system by a complex reading of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in the 1930s and the treatment of the matter by the Great Powers and the League of Nations in Geneva. Including the perspective of the Ethiopians themselves and situating the events in the larger history of Western power and on military and diplomatic manoeuvres in the 'Orient', she constructs the most inspired - and inspiring - postcolonial study of modern statehood and international law that I have read." - Martti Koskenniemi 

"Parfitt’s The Process of International Legal Reproduction is a major event in international legal scholarship - at the levels of historical methodology, critical theory, and archival research. In lucid and persuasive prose, Parfitt synthesizes the broadest range of critical approaches, ranging from heterodox Marxism and post-colonial theory to materialist linguistics and aesthetic modernism - yielding a thoroughly original conception of ‘modular’ historiography. Her case-studies, above all her magisterial analysis of the ‘Abyssinia Crisis’ of the late 1930s, are based not only on meticulous treatment of often previously unexamined documents, but on a perspectival presentation of them in accordance with her theoretical conception. The book is a monumental achievement that should decisively shape the field for years to come, compelling a rethinking of the basic categories of international legal doctrine, historiography, diplomacy, and resistance" - Nathaniel Berman 

"In this remarkable book, Rose Parfitt offers us an entirely new way both to understand ostensibly familiar legal processes of state formation, and to write the history of those processes. International legal reproduction describes of the way existing states usher new subjects of international law into being and subject them to discipline, political, fiscal, and military. Scanning half a millennium, Parfitt explores the terms new subjects must meet even to qualify, and the prerogatives claimed by those according them conditional 'sovereign' legitimacy. Multiple case studies, including a detailed history of the 'Abyssinia Crisis' of the 1930s, put demonstrative flesh on these macrohistorical bones. This is an unapologetic call for revisionism in both the substance and method not just of international law but also of legal history, and a trenchant demonstration of the advantages that will accrue." - Christopher Tomlins

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cromwell Article Prize to Blackhawk

Another annual award that the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation generously supports is the  Cromwell Article Prize, for the "best article in American legal history published by an early career scholar." This year's awardee, announced at the annual meeting of the ASLH, is Maggie Blackhawk (University of Pennsylvania), for her article “Petitioning and the Making of the Administrative State.” The article appeared in Volume 127 of the Yale Law Journal (2018).

A citation from the Cromwell Article Prize Committee:
“Petitioning and the Making of the Administrative State,” by Maggie McKinley of the Penn Law School in the Yale Law Journal, makes a robust and compelling case that finds the constitutional basis of the administrative state in core republican ideals grounded in the First Amendment’s protection of the right to petition Congress for relief. The article combines exhaustive archival and empirical research with a deft handling of administrative law and judicial process to offer provocative interventions into much of our received wisdom in those fields.

This article, which runs to a hundred pages, is an ambitious and impressive undertaking whose impact can be best appreciated as two skillfully combined articles. The first is an empirical study grounded in the “North America Petitions Project,” an original dataset compiled by a group of which McKinley was a co-principal investigator. The project assembled a database of some 500,000 petitions submitted to Congress from the 1790s through 1950, offering “an extended longitudinal view of the petition process.” Second, the article is also a robust intervention into several ongoing historical and legal debates. Above all, it rejects criticisms of the modern administrative state as a violation of constitutional separation of powers and a usurpation of authority – even as unconstitutional – and challenges Chadha’s holding the legislative veto to be unconstitutional. A citation such as this cannot do justice to the many virtues of this article, which ranges over more than two centuries of American legal history while engaging areas of several lively constitutional dispute. It is a worthy choice for such an important award.
The member's of this year's prize committee were David Konig (Chair) Washington University; Deborah Dinner (Emory University); H. Tomas Gomez-Arostegui (Lewis and Clark); and Erika Pani (Colegio de México). We thank them for their service and offer our congratulations to Maggie Blackhawk!
-- Karen Tani

Cromwell Book Prize to Welch

In addition to supporting dissertation and article prizes, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation also generously supports a book prize, for "the best book in the field of American legal history by an early career scholar." This year's Cromwell Book Prize went to Kimberly M. Welch (Vanderbilt University) for Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South (University of North Carolina Press, 2018).

Here's the citation from this year's Cromwell Book Prize Committee:
Black Litigants is a tour de force of meticulous and arduous archival work, and the slow piecing together of documents to construct a nuanced, sophisticated and rich narrative. The work produces new historical knowledge regarding how free and enslaved black litigants in the antebellum South used local courts to make civil claims regarding debt, property, and contracts. Adding to this archival feat is how Welch writes with a strong and confident voice exploring what these cases tell us about law, race, and the slaveholding South.

Using local court documents from two parishes in Louisiana and two counties in Mississippi, Welsh constructs a detailed narrative of how some black people used courts to sue white people in local courts. The work incorporates and is in dialogue with other excellent scholarship on enslaved people who brought freedom suits. Yet where freedom suits had such significant consequences, Welch locates and analyzes more mundane and everyday claims. In fact, one of Welch’s central arguments is the very fact that such cases were unexceptional and that black plaintiffs won suits against whites on a regular basis. Welch carefully analyzes why this might be the case simultaneously recognizing the agency of black litigants, how law propped up and structured white supremacy, and how law was not hegemonic. Rather Black Litigants illustrates that judges, lawyers, and white people more generally had multiple competing interests and that, at least at times, ideas of property won out over, or at least co-existed with, ideas of white supremacy and slaveholding.

Welch provides a rich social history of local southern courts while also conveying a subtle and nuanced understanding of what law even is. She theorizes that law is a highly stylized language of claim making, a discourse, a way of shaping and telling stories that courts, lawyers, and others could recognize. Indeed, Welch herself provides us with new and significant stories that enhance our understanding of how local on-the-ground law operates and the spaces in which black litigants could assert their personhood, even citizenship, and partake in the public legal sphere.
The members of this year's prize committee were Felice Batlan (chair) (Chicago-Kent College of Law); Sophia Z. Lee (University of Pennsylvania); Jonathan Levy (University of Chicago); and Thomas Mackey (University of Louisville). We thank them for their service and offer our congratulations to Kimberly Welch!

-- Karen Tani

Cromwell Dissertation Prize to Lande

Another highlight from last week's annual meeting of the ASLH: the announcement by John D. Gordan III of the legal history awards that the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation generously supports every year.  This year's Cromwell Dissertation Prize, awarded to "the best dissertation in any area of American legal history," went to Jonathan Lande (currently a professor at Weber State University) for “Disciplining Freedom: U.S. Army Slave Rebels and Emancipation During the Civil War" (Brown University, 2018).

A citation from the prize committee:
At least since William Cooper Nell penned The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution in 1855, historians have linked African-American military service with manhood and citizenship. Black regiments in the Civil War have received considerable attention. Black service has rightly been deemed central to the North’s victory and an important step for both African-Americans’ assertion of sacrifice for and citizenship in the post-Civil War world. In his pathbreaking dissertation “Disciplining Freedom: U.S. Army Slave Rebels and Emancipation in the Civil War,” Jonathan Lande boldly argues that the conventional account is incomplete. Centering on the records of the courts martial and contextualizing them with administrative and personal sources, Lande uncovers deep northern anxiety about arming the formerly enslaved. Despite free labor ideological commitments, northern officers carried with them the albatross of slavery and white supremacy into courts martial proceedings against black soldiers. The courts martial produced minimalistic records, seemingly straightforward, and therefore deceptively equitable in their treatment of all soldiers, regardless of color. Lande’s textured reading of the records reveals them as sites of conflict. Far from being “schools” about the value of equal justice for the freedmen, these courts martial proceedings were means to discipline the formerly enslaved. For their part, freedmen continued on in their old traditions of resistance against oppression. Their experience of freedom and understanding of civic membership, Lande argues, was, in important ways, born of this struggle.
The members of this year's Cromwell Dissertation Prize Committee were H. Robert Baker (Chair) (Georgia State University); Mary Sarah Bilder (Boston College); Lisa Ford (University of New South Wales); Sarah Seo (University of Iowa); and Laura Weinrib (Harvard University). We thank them for their service and offer our congratulations to Jonathan Lande!

-- Karen Tani

Preyer Awards to Bloch, Nofil

A highlight of the annual meeting of the American Society for Legal History is the naming of the new Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars. About the award:
Named after the late Kathryn T. Preyer, a distinguished historian of the law of early America known for her generosity to early career 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 early career legal historians designated Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars will present what would normally be their first papers to the Society. 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.
This year's awardees are Ofra Bloch (Yale Law School) for her paper "The Untold History of Israel’s Affirmative Action for Arab Citizens, 1948-1968" and Brianna Nofil (Columbia University) for her paper "'Chinese Jails' and the Birth of Immigration Detention for Profit, 1900-1905." 

The Society celebrated the Preyer Scholars at the meeting with a session dedicated to their papers. Laura Kalman (University of California, Santa Barbara) chaired; Gerald Neuman (Harvard University) and Sophia Lee (University of Pennsylvania) offered comments.

Members of the the 2019 Preyer Memorial Committee were Laura Kalman (Chair); Rabia Belt (Stanford University); Anne Fleming (Georgetown University); Will Smiley (Reed College); Gautham Rao (ex officio) (Editor, Law & History Review) (American University); and Jed Shugerman (Fordham University). We thank them for their service and offer our congratulations to Ofra Bloch and Brianna Nofil! 

-- Karen Tani

Scholars of Tort Law: An Essay Collection

Out from Hart: Scholars of Tort Law, edited by James Goudkamp, Professor of the Law of Obligations at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and Donal Nolan,  Professor of Private Law at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford:
The publication of Scholars of Tort Law marks the beginning of a long overdue rebalancing of private law scholarship. Instead of concentrating on judicial decisions and academic commentary only for what that commentary says about judicial decisions, the book explores the contributions of scholars of tort law in their own right. The work of a selection of leading scholars of tort law from across the common law world, ranging from Thomas Cooley (1824–1898) to Patrick Atiyah (1931–2018), is addressed by eminent current scholars in the field. The focus of the contributions is on the nature of the work produced by each of the scholars in question, important influences on their work, and the influence which that work in turn had on thinking about tort law. The process of subjecting tort law scholarship to sustained analysis provides new insights into the intellectual development of tort law and reveals the important role played by scholars in that development. By focusing on the work of influential tort scholars, the book serves to emphasise the importance of legal scholarship to the development of the common law more generally.
Eleven of the thirteen contributors are male.  TOC after the jump:

On the opening of the Betsy Clark Living Archive

On November 23, 2019, immediately following the conclusion of the annual meeting of the
American Society for Legal History, Boston University School of Law held a ceremony marking
the opening of the Betsy Clark Living Archive devoted to the scholarship of Elizabeth Clark. Betsy Clark, who taught at BU before her untimely death in 1997, was an important presence in the world of legal history in the 1980s and early 1990s. And the archive includes a number of short “responses” to her scholarship. Her colleagues David Seipp and Pnina Lahav were responsible for making the archive a reality.

Her friends, Thomas A. Green, the John Philip Dawson Collegiate Professor of Law Emeritus at
the University of Michigan Law School and Dirk Hartog, each wrote short pieces for the

From Tom:

Thanks to Pnina Lahav and David Seipp, and to Boston University School of Law for the creation
of the Betsy Clark Living Archive. Today we honor both Betsy--still, and always, a living
presence in the minds and hearts of all who knew her--and her work. That work, much of which
was published more than twenty years ago--retains vitality and relevance; its easy availability is a
service to the profession, not just to American legal history, but to nineteenth-century American
history more generally. Betsy's interests ranged widely, from law to religion to political and social
thought. Her work was intended to convey--and did convey--a very broad and inclusive vision of
the doing of history.

It was a great pleasure and honor to know and to teach Betsy, and, in turn, to learn from her, as all of her teachers certainly did. I came to know Betsy early in her time as a law student at the
University of Michigan Law School, when she was casting about for ways to unite her legal
studies with her other intellectual interests. These interests were predominantly historical, from
the classical era to the twentieth century, but also reflected a fascination with--and abundant
commitments to--then current politics and political thought. I subsequently taught her in various
courses in English and American legal history, where she proved to be a superb student as well as delightful, vivacious and always intellectually challenging presence. Although she was obviously precocious, she was extremely popular with her peers--always a good test.And perhaps the highest commendation: the quality of her papers always justified the length of the incomplete she had taken.

My time with Betsy was extended beyond her law school years, as she remained at
Michigan for a Masters in History before moving on to Princeton for doctoral work. In that extra
time, Betsy became a close friend of my first PhD student, Victoria List, and the two of them
were such frequent visitors to my office that I put them to work creating the excellent Index to the
Sam Thorne Festschrift, for which I have often received totally undeserved credit.

Student, research assistant and friend--and, finally, editee: Dirk and I were privileged to work
with Betsy as she was turning her fine dissertation into a book for the series, Studies in Legal
History. And in those years, as I was editing Betsy, she was editing me, for I was struggling with
an over-long article that badly needed her prodigious editorial talents. Betsy was supportive and,
as always, generous; but of course, she had a way with words: "If you must write about Roscoe
Pound, try not to sound like him."

That was spring 1995 and a good bit of the ensuing summer--Betsy's last untroubled time. The
remains of those days are now the Living Archive. The Archive contains Betsy's published
articles; an article in draft, just a step away from publication; and a significant piece of her
dissertation that had not yet been revised toward the book that was intended to bring together, in
one form or another, the main body of her work--a book that Betsy tentatively titled, "Women,
Church, and State: Religion and the Culture of Individual Rights in Nineteenth-Century
America," and that an astute reviewer suggested might better be titled, "The Politics of God and
the Liberal Self: Religion, Abolitionism, and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America."
Betsy's published work is exceedingly good; it marked her as a rising star in her own day, and it
has been influential ever since. The Archive brings that work together and puts it into conjunction
both with Betsy's unpublished work and with short essays by four scholars whom Dirk and I
invited to comment on Betsy's work, its implications and the pathways it opens to ongoing
research and debate. In doing so, the Archive is truly Living, as it opens new vistas at every point
for those who make use of it, from under-graduates to senior scholars. It is a blessing to have
Betsy's work preserved in this way, for which--once again--many thanks to Boston University
School of Law.

And from Dirk:

Consider a legal historian, Elizabeth or Betsy Clark, and her relationship to law. When she died,
in 1997 after a painful struggle with ovarian cancer, the glove compartment of her car was filled
to the top with unpaid parking tickets from several locales, plus more than a couple of speeding
tickets. Driving with her was always an adventure, not just because she drove very very fast.
Also, because she might stop suddenly if she saw someone littering (like dropping a cigarette butt
out of the car), to tell the litterer what a terrible human being she or he was.

She was also someone who would fly across the country or around the world, whenever she
would hear that a friend or acquaintance could use her help. Betsy was always in motion. Until
she wasn’t.

She had spent a mysterious two years in Chiapas, in southern Mexico after graduating from
college, before starting law school. Her family would eventually purchase a house there. But the
house would be used by revolutionaries. What her relationship was with all that remained

If Betsy were alive today, she would love the new legitimacy of socialism. Though she liked to
shop and liked clothes and houses and good food and things, she hated capitalism. Passionately.
We spent days arguing about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, about whom she wrote several brilliant
articles. She loved Stanton’s feminist radicalism, but her anti-statist libertarianism filled Betsy
with loathing. Instead, she identified with the WCTU, the Women’s Christian Temperance
Union, both because of their Christianity and because of their commitment to an active state.
Her own faith, her Christianity, was complex and complicated. To be honest, I never fully
understood where she “came from.” But she was an amazingly insightful reader of legal and
political texts in large part because she knew how to read sympathetically the religious
underpinnings of legal understandings. She identified herself with several strands of nineteenth
century Protestantism, and she used the insights that came with that identification to produce
wholly new readings of familiar texts in American feminism and abolitionism and legal thought.
I first came to know her well when she spent a year in Madison as the first “legal history fellow”
at the UW law school, where I was then teaching. The fellowship came into being because, for
reasons that had nothing to do with my virtues as a teacher, my class in legal history suddenly
swelled to around 175. David Trubek, then the head of the Institute for Legal Studies there, when
he heard my complaints about what that would mean for grading, said that he thought I should get a TA. And then after further conversation we turned that TAship into a fellowship. How to find
the right fellow? I went home, looked up the “call” for the William and Mary “post doc,” which
was the only one I knew of at the time. I stole and modified their language to draft a “call” for a
legal history fellow, and then found out from the dean that we could offer 13000 dollars (I think it
eventually grew to 15000). And then we sent the call out, and got a flood of applications.
Betsy’s application stood out, though there were many stellar applicants, including several from
others who have had distinguished careers in academia. Her letter from her dissertation advisor,
who shall remain nameless but is a very close friend, praised her gifts as a reader and a
researcher, but also noted that he was not at all certain whether she would ever finish, given her
passionate involvement in the divestment movement (which was then raging at Princeton as well
as elsewhere). I was anxious, worried about making the right choice. But my then colleague Stan
Kutler read her writing sample and said that she was clearly as gifted as any young legal historian
he knew. So, Betsy got the telephone call from me, and she immediately accepted. I will always
be grateful that Stan Kutler did that.

Betsy and I became close friends, talking daily, reading texts and documents. Talking, talking,
and talking. I remember her year in Madison as nothing but conversation and argument.
She was a great cook, and one evening she asked to come cook in our large kitchen. She wanted to prepare a meal for all the people she had become close to in Wisconsin. Eventually the dinner became, if not a disaster, then, shall we say, a memorable event. One of those at the dinner decided that this would be a great moment to attack another member of the community, also at the dinner, because she did not feel adequately supported in her career. And also, my parents in law arrived suddenly and unexpectedly just as everyone sat down to eat, and they were hurt that they had not been invited. But much of the day, before the dinner itself, was spent watching Betsy cook. The menu included an elaborate souffle. My son, who had just turned 7, and who had become good friends with her, asked if he could help. And Betsy incorporated him into her process. And as she did with anyone, Betsy talked with and listened to him, treating him as an equal. My strongest memory of that day is of her working at the souffle while explaining rape to him (At that moment, the local papers were full of a case where members of the Minnesota basketball team had been arrested after having lost to the Wisconsin basketball team in Madison.). My wife and I held our breaths outside the door to the kitchen, as Betsy patiently answered all of Jacob’s questions.

At a certain point, a few years later, Betsy did finish her dissertation. She and I both were in
Cambridge just before the defense. I was giving a talk. It was September, and she was starting a
postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Divinity School. (It was there that she met her husband,
David Hall.) Since I was to be the “outside” reader of her dissertation, she offered to drive me
from Cambridge to Princeton. I accepted, and off we went. In about 3 hours.

She had a brilliant defense, my first experience of Princeton’s History Department, and then she
began a meteoric rise as a historian and a law teacher, publishing several brilliant articles,
teaching at Cardozo, then visiting at Harvard Law School, then at BU Law School. Everywhere
she went, people were changed by her presence. And her scholarship won accolades and prizes.
She desperately wanted children. But that would not be. She wanted to write many books. And
that would not be. And soon she got sick, and she died. As we all will. But she died, much too

--Dirk Hartog

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

CFP: Michigan Law Junor Scholars Conference

[We have the following CFP.  DRE]

Call for Papers: Michigan Law School 2020 Junior Scholars Conference, April 17-18, 2020.  Deadline for Submission: January 3, 2020

The University of Michigan Law School is pleased to invite junior scholars to attend the 6th Annual Junior Scholars Conference which will be held on April 17-18, 2020, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

The conference provides junior scholars with a platform to present and discuss their work with peers and receive detailed feedback from prominent members of the Michigan Law faculty. The Conference aims to promote fruitful collaboration between participants and to encourage their integration into a community of legal scholars. The Junior Scholars Conference is intended for academics in both law and related disciplines. Applications from graduate students, SJD/PhD candidates, postdoctoral researchers, lecturers, teaching fellows, and assistant professors (pre-tenure) who have not held an academic position for more than four years, are welcomed.

Submission: To apply to the conference, please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words reflecting the unpublished work that you wish to present and a copy of your CV through the online submission form by January 3, 2020. Please save all files as word documents in the following format: LAST NAME – FIRST NAME – ABSTRACT/CV/FUNDING

Selection will be based on the quality and originality of the abstract as well as its capacity to engage with other proposals and to foster a collaborative dialogue. Decisions will be communicated no later than January 31, 2020. Selected participants will be required to submit final papers by March 16, 2020, so that they may be sent to your faculty commentator and circulated among participants in advance.

Financial Assistance
: A very limited fund is available to help cover partial travel expenses and accommodation for selected participants. If you wish to be considered for financial assistance, please submit a separate written request through the online form specifying your city of departure and an estimate of travel costs. We regret in advance that we are unable to provide full financial assistance to participants.

Questions can be directed to the Organizing Committee Chair through the email address below.

Chun-Han Chen, Chair
University of Michigan Law School Center for International and Comparative Law
Junior Scholars Organizing Committee 200 Hutchins Hall, 625 South State Street Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215, U.S.A.

Surkis on sex, law, and sovereignty in French Algeria

Judith Surkis, Rutgers University has published Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830-1930 with Cornell University Press. From the publisher:
Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930
During more than a century of colonial rule over Algeria, the French state shaped and reshaped the meaning and practice of Muslim law by regulating it and circumscribing it to the domain of family law, while applying the French Civil Code to appropriate the property of Algerians. In Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830–1930, Judith Surkis traces how colonial authorities constructed Muslim legal difference and used it to deny Algerian Muslims full citizenship. In disconnecting Muslim law from property rights, French officials increasingly attached it to the bodies, beliefs, and personhood. Surkis argues that powerful affective attachments to the intimate life of the family and fantasies about Algerian women and the sexual prerogatives of Muslim men, supposedly codified in the practices of polygamy and child marriage, shaped French theories and regulatory practices of Muslim law in fundamental and lasting ways. Women's legal status in particular came to represent the dense relationship between sex and sovereignty in the colony. This book also highlights the ways in which Algerians interacted with and responded to colonial law. Ultimately, this sweeping legal genealogy of French Algeria elucidates how "the Muslim question" in France became—and remains—a question of sex.
Praise for the book:

 "Sex, Law, and Sovereignty opens up new ways to understand debates about religious and sexual pluralism, and marvelously demonstrates how attention to the paradoxical effects of instability and the workings of transgression, scandal, and crisis, lead to critical analytic perspectives." - Todd Shepard

"This is a masterful study of the ways in which sex and law were inextricably intertwined in the elaboration of French rule in Algeria. Its great virtue is to demonstrate in careful detail, with an impressive range of material (from court records to novels), exactly how the conquest of Algeria repeatedly challenged the very ideals of the secular universalism in whose name colonization was carried out." - Joan Wallach Scott

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi

Monday, November 25, 2019

CFP: The Neoliberal State Reconsidered

[We have the following CFP.  DRE]

The Comparative and Historical Social Science Working Group at Northwestern University is calling graduate students, postdocs, and faculty to participate in our third annual conference this year entitled, “The Neoliberal State Reconsidered: Risk, Surveillance, and the Future of Global Capitalism.” Our keynote speaker is Sarah Quinn (University of Washington).

Talk of “Surveillance Capitalism” abounds in scholastic circles and public audiences alike. Tactics of state surveillance, techniques of social control, and profits within global financial capitalism all seem to increasingly rely upon the extraction of personal data and information through various technologies. What this spells for the power of states to monopolize violence, the stability of global capitalism, and the political possibilities for social movements remains to be seen. Our keynote and closing will begin to unfold the answers to these theoretically intriguing and politically troubling uncertainties.

We are accepting paper proposals broadly oriented towards comparative and historical social science research, though we encourage scholars to submit papers relevant to the theme. In particular, this includes proposals that address key theoretical debates or contribute to new methodological ideas and tools in the subfield of comparative historical analysis.

Please see our full call for participation and our flyer attached. We would greatly appreciate if you could share this information with your graduate students, postdocs, and faculty.

The conference is from April 9th to 10th, 2020. We welcome paper submissions at different stages of research, and especially invite graduate students and younger scholars to share their work. Submission deadline is January 8th.

Please feel free to contact us at with any questions.

Comparative Legal History

[We have the following announcement.  DRE]

Comparative Legal History is an international and comparative review of law and history. It was established in 2013, and it is the official journal of the European Society for Comparative Legal History.

The Journal welcomes articles, which explore 'internal' legal history (doctrinal and disciplinary developments in the law) or 'external' legal history (legal ideas and institutions in wider contexts). Rooted in the complexity of the various Western legal traditions worldwide, the articles can also investigate other laws and customs from around the globe. Comparisons may be either temporal or geographical, and both legal and other law-like normative traditions will be considered.

Scholarship on comparative and trans-national historiography, including trans-disciplinary approaches, is particularly welcome.

Further information on how to submit here.

Forbath on Radical Lawyering and Constitutional Imagination on the Lower East Side

William E. Forbath, University of Texas at Austin School of Law, has posted Class Struggle, Group Rights and Socialist Pluralism on the Lower East Side–Radical Lawyering and Constitutional Imagination in the Early Twentieth Century:
This paper is a rough draft of two chapters in a book-in-progress. It explores the advocacy, institution-building and constitutional imaginary of a handful of socialist lawyers, as they helped build the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in early twentieth century New York. These lawyer-leaders along with union chiefs, thousands of rank and file leaders and activists, and hundreds of thousands of new immigrant workers waged massive general strikes and forged industry-wide agreements and collective bargaining, while they also clashed over just how democratic and pluralist their socialist union would be.

These struggles were a site of constant legal invention. They drew new immigrant workers into a deeply contentious experiment in reconstructing labor-capital relations on the basis of group rights with no footing in the official legal order: to organize, strike, and bargain on an industry-wide basis, to be dealt with by employers not as individual workers but as one big corporate body. The official order did more than refuse to recognize these rights; it condemned workers’ efforts to exercise them. Yet, despite the courts’ best efforts, this dramatic experiment largely succeeded; and the union membership ending up rallying behind the lawyer-leaders and activists committed to a deeply democratic, federated, socialist and multi-cultural vision of “group rights” and union organization.

Jewish Workers in N.Y. Needle Trades (NYPL)
In the process, they forged a new rights consciousness - a consciousness of both peoplehood and class, mixing ethno-racial and class based conceptions of group rights. Not simply a brand of rights talk, it was a social and constitutional imaginary. Such an imaginary dwells at the intersection of ideas and social action. It is an assembly of analytic, normative and narrative pieces, along with what Raymond Williams calls “structures of feeling.” An imaginary gains traction in virtue of its capacity to express ideas, aspirations and normative principles about social structures and social relations, at the same time as it explains and helps reproduce – or, in the case of a counter-hegemonic imaginary like this one, helps efforts to remake – those structures and relations. The Jewish socialist constitutional imaginary whose adventures the paper follows did all three: expressed, explained and helped remake.

In addition to testing out the notion of a constitutional imaginary, this paper about the past has a present political point. Today, corporate and group rights are found mostly in the normative and conceptual toolkits of various kinds of conservative thinkers. Liberals and progressives see them as fraught with dangers for individual freedom. If liberal democracy is imperiled, the response should be shoring up the individual civil rights and civil liberties of post-New Deal liberalism, enshrined by the Warren and Burger Courts.

A century ago, things looked different. When left-leaning liberals, “advanced Progressives” and socialists imagined what might come next, after the overthrow of constitutional laissez-faire, it was not only Jews like the ones in this paper but many others who hoped that group rights would be part of the new constitutional firmament. Like left-leaning legal, political and social thinkers in many parts of the globe, they thought that modern liberalism could not make good on its promises of individual freedom and equality unless it took on board key precepts from its rivals and interlocutors: pluralism and socialism. They saw corporate and group rights as building blocks of a social-democratic and pluralist liberalism – or of a liberal and pluralist socialism. Individual rights alone could not secure a broad distribution of power on behalf of members of subordinate economic and ethno-racial groups. That kind of distributional work also required group rights.

When the dust settled, of course, there were no such group rights in the post-New Deal firmament. There were some individual rights doing certain kinds of functionally similar work. But in the politico-constitutional milieu of the Cold War, even these were pressed into an older liberal legal mold. So, one of the ambitions of this work-in-progress is to acquaint liberal and progressive readers with an alternate brand of American constitutionalism in action, more pluralist and socialist than the one we got.

During the Cold War, the socialist pluralist outlook of the lawyer-leaders in this story was repressed and forgotten. It had features worth remembering. It refused to choose between ethno-racial particularity and class universalism. It fashioned institutions, forms of advocacy and a legal and constitutional discourse that took up the competing claims of socialism, pluralism and liberalism, and individual and group rights, mediating the inescapable tensions among them and subjecting them all to stubbornly democratic principles. It rejected the notion of putting off the empowerment of ordinary workers for the indefinite socialist future, instead striving to implement it in the capitalist present, with the legal and institutional tools at hand. Its practitioners explained their ethics and style of advocacy in terms of the moral and political logic of a social movement that strives to prefigure the kind of world it hopes to create. It also rejected prevailing romantic, racialist conceptions of ethno-racial group identities, in favor of a pragmatic, open-ended view that emphasized democratic agency, change and self-invention. As we revisit the socialist tradition, this chapter in socialist history and legal history offers food for thought.
--Dan Ernst

Legal History through a Rear View Mirror 4

One aspect of having been in the legal history business for a longish while is having to confront all that I have not done, or not completed. As well as all the mistakes I have made. Sometimes these are long past.  Sometimes not.

Having my “biography” from the Princeton history department website reproduced as part of a “welcome” message for the Legal History Blog provides an occasion for regret. Also for correction, since one way or another, the “biography” made Marshall’s canonical opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden, which it said I was working on, into one about the Contract Clause of the Constitution, rather than about the Commerce Clause (although there is a part of me that wants to think about the possible relationships between Gibbons, the case, and the Contracts Clause opinions, like that in Dartmouth College v. Woodward, that Marshall was drafting at around the same time). But more important: it has now been 4-5 years since I made any progress on the Gibbons project. Since then I ended up writing a book about gradual emancipation in New Jersey that was, in some regards, a spinoff from the Gibbons project. But I wrote the emancipation book as well as a way to get away from the Gibbons project, about which, then and now, I could not figure out what my “takeaway” was.

I’m not sure if I will ever return to the book I once planned about Gibbons. I have an immense number of jpgs on my computer. Some of that “archive” may form the basis for several different stories (about the language of monopoly in legal discourse and about the significance of family feuds within early New Jersey and New York) that sit within the larger narrative. I have several outlines. And I can imagine articles that will make use of those jpgs.  But I also confront a kind of fear of my archive, an uncertainty with how to use or to manage it, combined with a deep anxiety about how to make analytic claims within the well-trodden constitutional ground of John Marshall’s opinion in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden. Even if nearly everyone I have read on Gibbons, even if much of the vast legal and historical and political science literature that deals with Marshall’s opinion, is “wrong” in some ways, I’m not at all sure that I can find a way to say something that is “right” or that will satisfy my historical and legal and literary ambitions.

Once upon a time, all that would have been an occasion for silent shame and embarrassment, and possibly for a renewed determination to figure it all out. But today, while not immune to shame and embarrassment, I can go public with my failure. I think of that as progress of a sort, even it will probably (possibly) not lead to the book that I once hoped for.

--Dirk Hartog

Sunday, November 24, 2019

ASLH Guest Post: Walker Covers "Legal History and the Persistent Power of State and Local Government"

We have the first of our guest posts covering a panel or other convening at the 2019 meeting of the American Society for Legal History. Thanks to former guest blogger Anders Walker (St. Louis University School of Law) for this fantastic recap of the preconference symposium on "Legal History and the Persistent Power of State and Local Government." The following is from Walker (with our gratitude):

The preconference symposium on state and local governments was not to be missed.  Organized by Brooke Depenbusch (Colgate University) and Rabia Belt (Stanford University), the program sought to ask new questions about the state, moving away from narrow conceptions of centralized, metropolitan bureaucracies and towards more decentralized, disaggregated models, models perhaps more familiar to historians of the United States (itself a conglomeration of local, state, and federal entities, agencies, and administrations).

Saturday, November 23, 2019

CFP: Stanford's International Junior Faculty Forum

[We have the following CFP.  DRE]

Call for Papers: Thirteenth International Junior Faculty Forum, Stanford Law School

Sponsored by Stanford Law School, the International Junior Faculty Forum (IJFF) was established to stimulate the exchange of ideas and research among younger legal scholars from around the world. We live today in a global community– in particular, a global legal community. The IJFF is designed to foster transnational legal scholarship that surmounts barriers of time, space, legal traditions and cultures, and to create an engaged global community of scholars. The Thirteenth IJFF will be held at Stanford Law School in fall 2020 (the exact date has not yet been fixed; but it will probably be in October).

In order to be considered for the 2020 International Junior Faculty Forum, authors must meet the following criteria:
  • Citizen of a country other than the United States
  • Current academic institution is outside of the United States
  • Not currently a student in the United States
  • Have held a faculty position or the equivalent, including positions comparable to junior faculty positions in research institutions, for less than seven years as of 2020; and
  • Last degree earned less than ten years before 2020.
Papers may be on any legally relevant subject and can make use of any relevant approach: they can be quantitative or qualitative, sociological, anthropological, historical, or economic. The host institution is committed to intellectual, methodological, and regional diversity, and welcomes papers from junior scholars from all parts of the world. Please note, however, that already published papers are not eligible for consideration. We particularly welcome work that is interdisciplinary.

Those who would like to participate in the IJFF must first submit an abstract of the proposed paper. Abstracts should be no more than two (2) pages long and must be in English. The abstract should provide a roadmap of your paper—it should tell us what you plan to do, lay out the major argument of the paper, say something about the methodology, and indicate the paper’s contribution to scholarship. The due date for abstracts is Friday, February 7, 2020, although earlier submissions are welcome. To submit your abstract, please complete our abstract submission form. Abstracts must have the name of the author(s) and title of the abstract on the document that is submitted to be considered for the forum.

After the abstracts have been reviewed, we will invite, no later than the end of March 2020, a number of junior scholars to submit full papers of no more than 15,000 words, electronically, in English, by a deadline of approximately mid-May 2020. Please include a word count for final papers. There is no fixed number of papers to be invited, but in the past years, up to 50 invitations have been issued from among a much larger number of abstracts.

An international committee of legal scholars will review the papers and select a small number of them, but at least seven, for full presentation at the conference, where two senior scholars will comment on each paper. After the remarks of the commentators, all of the participants, junior and senior alike, will have a chance to join in the discussion. One of the most valuable—and enjoyable—aspects of the Forum, in the opinion of many participants, has been the chance to meet junior and senior scholars and to talk about your work and theirs.

Participants are encouraged to seek funding from their home institutions. In default, Stanford will cover expenses of travel, including airfare, lodging, and food for participants. Questions about the forum should be directed to


Professor Lawrence M. Friedman
Stanford Law School

Friday, November 22, 2019

Barzun on the Genetic Fallacy

Charles L. Barzun, University of Virginia School of Law, has posted The Genetic Fallacy and a Living Constitution, which appeared in Constitutional Commentary 34 (2019): 101-131:
Should the historical origins of some principle or practice affect how we think about it today? Under one standard view, the answer is “no”; to think otherwise is to commit a fallacy – specifically, the “genetic” fallacy. But in legal argument, origins often seem to matter a great deal. This essay takes up the question of whether, or under what conditions, it is right for them to do so. It shows that under at least three models of legal reasoning — reasoning by authority, reasoning for the sake of integrity, and a third form of reasoning that I call ad hominem argumentation — historical explanations are properly relevant to the legal analysis. Legal theorists have yet to even recognize this third, ad hominem model of reasoning as a distinct form of legal argument. But they should. It not only best accords with one very traditional understanding of the common law; it also explains the logic and appeal of a “living constitution,” as the Supreme Court conveyed in one of its most controversial decisions of the last few decades: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
--Dan Ernst

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fischer on the racial politics of morals enforcement

Anne Gray Fischer (Indiana University) has published " 'Land of the White Hunter': Legal Liberalism and the Racial Politics of Morals Enforcement in Midcentury Los Angeles," The Journal of American History 105:4 (March 2019), 868-84. From the introduction:

This essay excavates two critical dimensions of the postwar racial history of morals law enforcement through an examination of Los Angeles. First, the essay recovers midcentury processes of sexual liberalization in social science and legal reform, which shaped law enforcement authorities' 'reluctance' to pursue white women...while preserving police officers' discretionary power in morals law enforcement to disproportionately target black women. Second, the essay demonstrates how the city's growing black urban communal violence was touched off in part by this racial inequity in morals enforcement. In presenting a history of midcentury morals law reform alongside morals crackdowns and confrontations between black people and police officers in segregated Los Angeles, this essay exposes an understudied site of mounting police repression and black protest in a period of ascendant sexual liberalism. The racial inequity in morals policing--exacerbated by liberalizing morals laws--was a powerful, if heretofore unrecognized, factor in the many clashes between police and black residents that culminated in the 1965 communal violence in the black neighborhood of Watts.
Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Legal History through a Rear View Mirror 3

I have written a bit about what has changed in the “field” of legal history over the past two generations. Let me now say something about what has stayed the same. At least as I have experienced it.

Legal history has been and remains an extraordinary, and perhaps singular, conversational community. From the mid 1970s, when I first encountered it, to the present day.

I emphasize the singular as well as the singularity of our field. Many conversations, one community. There are many fights worth having in the field: About how to do legal history, about what counts, about sources, about the relationship of the local to the national (and today to the global and the imperial/colonial/post-colonial), about reading practices, about the place of “theory” in history and about what kind of theory to use. These conflicts have always been there. There is no “peaceful” past for legal history, at least in the years that I “lived” it. (The first legal history public conversation I can remember going to involved Lawrence Friedman, who had just published his History of American Law, at Harvard Law School, talking about how everyone there had a distorted and mistaken understanding of what mattered “in” law because they spent their time looking at the pictures on the wall of eminent, mostly British, jurists.).  And those fights continue, at every annual meeting of the American Society for Legal History, and elsewhere. As they should. The conversations can be harsh.  Feelings can be hurt.  People can feel misunderstood. And yet, those conversations or arguments continue. Productively and mostly civilly.  And some of those fights remain in my memory as high points in my life as a legal historian.

Those conversations cross subdisciplinary and genre and national and period lines. “We” talk to one another regardless of whether one “is” or begins as a medievalist, a Latin Americanist, a Caribbeanist, a historian of slavery, or as a doctrinal lawyer or as a legal activist. And in the last years, the lines have extended farther, to incorporate historians and lawyers and others trained as South Asianists and Southeast Asianists and China specialists and classicists.  (The contrast here is with a field like that identified with the Law and Society Association, where each subdiscipline and genre or grouping has its own “collaborative research network,” with the effect of creating many siloed subfields, few of which talk to one another.)

Being a member of this growing community has been such a gift and such a blessing. When I was asked what it was like to go to a legal history meeting after my first time, I paraphrased the Groucho Marx line about not wanting to be a member of a club that would admit me. But that was a lie and a stupid affectation. It has been great. Full stop. I hope others experience that as well.

I can’t pretend to know many of the other precincts of academic law or of professional history, let alone the wider world. I know relatively few. But I know what I know, which is that “we” are a remarkably intense and collegial community. We are tough and critical. But there is a shared sense of a common pursuit, dare I say it, a “calling”? The resistance to silos could be said to produce a shallowness, an inability to plumb deeply into the weeds of our particular (subfield produced) subjects. That is a plausible critique. My sense, however, is that has not been the case. Or not often. There is a confidence that an audience of legal historians can follow any paper or talk into the legal technicalities and the obscurities of archives. And that “we” can have conversations about legal history as it is manifested in many places and many times, in several different languages.

I am not so naive as to pretend there is no hierarchy. There is no easy escape from the false seductions of watching particular people talk the talk, of privileging the clever ones, or the ones with the right credentials. Still, legal history meetings are one place where one does not often notice senior people looking over the heads of junior people (or to the side of their badges), to see if there is someone more important to talk with. Or at least I don’t notice that (which may be something different).

In conversation, Mitra Sharafi reminds me that we may be exclusionary in ways I am not adequately acknowledging. It is certainly true that fewer practicing attorneys come to our meetings than once upon a time. We have become more “professionalized,” in our weird way. We work to avoid making elite connections or degrees a prerequisite, but it may be that those without the “usual” credentials (which are themselves more arbitrary and perhaps disconnected from quality than I have acknowledged) feel excluded. Class privilege is intrinsic to many of our practices. And we have not (yet) done what the Organization of American Historians and a few other academic institutions do, which is to work proactively to include and incorporate into our conversations those who work in the trenches of public education, particularly high school teachers.

There is more to do. Our gemeinschaft may, like most, seem closed to those who are not in, even if we do not practice hierarchy within the group.

And yet our gemeinschaft is also a source for community, and I would think, for the work we do. Our group norms need constant and continuing criticism and attention. But, as compared to many other academic groups, they are not bad.

Why is that? What joins us together? What makes us who we are? I used to think it had to do with a shared sense of marginality. But our marginality, at least within the institutions where legal historians ply their trades, is much less the case than it once was, as I have written in an earlier blog entry. Could it be because we share a common socialization? Is it all about the increasing ubiquity of the dual degree, JD/Ph.D? I don’t believe so, since our biographies do differ. And even common alphabet after our names in our cvs may mask radically different experiences.

One answer to the “why question” has to be about particular individuals who have modeled how to be a good academic citizen, who practice a kind of meritocratic and democratic openness within the community, who create and practice the norms that bind us. From Stan Katz to Tom Green to Michael Grossberg to Rebecca Scott to Barbara Welke, to name just five of many possible leaders (who also served as models for me), we have been led by those committed to a relatively inclusionary and relatively non-hierarchical understanding of the field.

But it may be better just to leave the why as mystery.

My real point is less about the terms that constitute or produce our community life than to make a pitch for understanding our lives as academics through the lens of these conversations and relationships, and through our group norms. Our scholarship makes such conversations possible. But producing books and articles is not the only goal. Conversations and communities, friendships and arguments (and hurt feelings) and relationships, are another.  And legal history has done pretty well on that score.

--Dirk Hartog

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Deadline Imminent: Legal History @ LSA

[We have the following announcement.  Please note the deadline!  DRE]

Greetings from the Law & History Collaborative Research Network (CRN 44)!

 As you may know, the submission deadline for the Law & Society Association annual meeting (to be held in Denver, CO, May 28-31, 2020) has been extended to November 20, 2019 (11:59 EST).

We at the Law & History CRN (CRN 44) want to encourage legal history conversations at the Law & Society Association meeting, and we are here to help coordinate paper and panel submissions. If you have a legal history paper but no panel, please feel free to select “CRN 44” in the submission process and send us an email letting us know. We will help place it on a panel once we review all the CRN submissions. And if you have a fully formed panel, feel free to select “CRN 44” when you submit it and we will add it to our list.

We look forward to hearing from you; please let us know if you have any questions.

Joanna Grisinger
Center for Legal Studies, Northwestern University
joanna.grisinger [at]

Kimberly Welch
Department of History, Vanderbilt University
Kimberly.M.Welch [at]

Logan Sawyer
University of Georgia Law School
lesawyer [at]

Kathryn Schumaker
Department of Classics and Letters, University of Oklahoma
schumaker [at]

Downs, "The Second American Revolution The Civil War-Era Struggle over Cuba and the Rebirth of the American Republic"

The University of North Carolina Press has published The Second American Revolution: The Civil War-Era Struggle over Cuba and the Rebirth of the American Republic (Nov. 2019), by Gregory P. Downs (University of California, Davis). A description from the Press:
Much of the confusion about a central event in United States history begins with the name: the Civil War. In reality, the Civil War was not merely civil--meaning national--and not merely a war, but instead an international conflict of ideas as well as armies. Its implications transformed the U.S. Constitution and reshaped a world order, as political and economic systems grounded in slavery and empire clashed with the democratic process of republican forms of government. And it spilled over national boundaries, tying the United States together with Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Britain, and France in a struggle over the future of slavery and of republics.
Here Gregory P. Downs argues that we can see the Civil War anew by understanding it as a revolution. More than a fight to preserve the Union and end slavery, the conflict refashioned a nation, in part by remaking its Constitution. More than a struggle of brother against brother, it entailed remaking an Atlantic world that centered in surprising ways on Cuba and Spain. Downs introduces a range of actors not often considered as central to the conflict but clearly engaged in broader questions and acts they regarded as revolutionary. This expansive canvas allows Downs to describe a broad and world-shaking war with implications far greater than often recognized.
Advance praise:
"A bold and refreshing interpretation of the Civil War that challenges scholars to bring the singular story out of its narrow, hyperspecialized confines of national history, reframing it into a watershed moment shaped by hemispheric and global forces that remade the nineteenth-century Atlantic world."--Matt D. Childs
"With beautiful, elegant prose, Downs takes the old topic of the revolutionary quality of the Civil War and moves it forward in unexpected and exciting ways by putting it in conversation with the revolutionary nature of the Atlantic in the same period. This is a truly pioneering and innovative book."--Michael Vorenberg
More information is available here.

-- Karen Tani

ASLH 2019 Program Update

Nobody's perfect and things change, even with final programs of annual meetings of learned societies.  Here are some updates that have come to our attention for the meeting of the American Society for Legal History at the Boston Park Plaza this week. We'd be happy to update this post with others.

First, one of the panels in the Authors-Meet-Readers Salon: New Books in American Legal History on Friday November 22, from 1:15 to 2:40 in the Georgian Room was omitted from the program but will take place nonetheless:
Blake Emerson’s The Public’s Law: Origins and Architecture of Progressive Democracy
Chair: Daniel Ernst, Georgetown University Law Center
Commentators: Anne Kornhauser, City University of New York; Jessica Blatt, Marymount Manhattan College; Noah Rosenblum, Columbia Law School

Author: Blake Emerson, UCLA School of Law

Second, elsewhere in the Georgian Room at the same time, Richard R. John of Columbia University joins Harvard Law’s Kenneth Mack as commentators on Legal Histories of Modern American Capitalism: Anne Fleming’s City of Debtors: A Century of Fringe Finance and Laura Phillips Sawyer’s American Fair Trade: Proprietary Capitalism, Corporatism, and the “New Competition,” 1890-1940.

--Dan Ernst