Sunday, December 15, 2019

ASLH Honorary Fellow: David Sugarman

We’re devoting today’s posts to the announcement of the Honorary Fellows at last month’s annual meeting of the American Society for Legal History in Boston.  As the ASLH explains:
Election as an Honorary Fellow of the American Society for Legal History is the highest honor the Society can confer. It recognizes distinguished historians whose scholarship has shaped the broad discipline of legal history and influenced the work of others. Honorary Fellows are the scholars we admire, whom we aspire to emulate, and on whose shoulders we stand.
The first we’ll note is David Sugarman, Emeritus Professor of Law, Lancaster University.  Constance Backhouse read his citation:
David Sugarman (credit)
David Sugarman, Emeritus Professor of Law at Lancaster University, UK, is a scholar whose astonishing career is credited with the opening up of English modern socio-legal history.  Sugarman began his academic career five decades ago, commencing his law studies at the University of Hull in 1967 and graduate study at Cambridge in 1970.  He completed an S.J.D. at Harvard in 1985, with a thesis supervised by Mort Horwitz and examined by Duncan Kennedy. 

Bob Gordon has recognized the heavy lifting involved in David Sugarman’s formative years.  He writes, “Recall that when David started to write in the late 1970s, English modern social-legal history was hardly a field at all.  There were virtually no equivalents to speak of to Hurst, Scheiber, Friedman or Horwitz.  Sugarman undaunted marched into the gap.  He assembled scraps of the work of non-legal historians related to law, and in several pioneering essays synthesized them into a tantalizing preview of what a social-legal history might come to look like. Taken together, these essays constitute both a major effort to theorize a field, and a comprehensive bibliography of existing materials in it.  And then he gradually stirred into that historiography and theoretical framework his own original contributions to them.”

And his “original contributions” were legendary.  Along the way, David Sugarman became a leading historian of the English legal profession, legal education, and legal-academic literature. He pioneered the comparison of legal professions and literatures in the United States, Canada, and Europe.  He became renowned for his mentoring of early career scholars and community building across disciplines. 

Philip Girard describes his contributions as “truly staggering in both geographic and thematic terms,” but adds that “no one could ever accuse him of being a dilettante.” Harry Arthurs describes him as “an intellectual force of nature.”  Dirk Hartog describes him as charting a “new dawn in British legal history,” a man who seems “to have read everything,” who represents “a gift to our globalizing profession.”  Bob Gordon characterizes him as a cosmopolitan force: “English to the core – no other culture could have produced anyone like him – but at the same time the least likely Brit ever to become a Brexiteer.” 

English socio-legal history has blossomed under David Sugarman’s brilliant leadership.  All of us in North America and Europe are indebted to his encyclopedic wisdom.  He presents an extraordinary addition to the roster of Honorary Fellows of the American Society of Legal History.
 --Dan Ernst