Sunday, October 31, 2021

Chinese Legal History: Five Books

Want to read more Chinese legal history but not sure where to start? In my previous post, I provided a select bibliography of English-language studies of Chinese legal history published since the 1980s. In this post, I will wrap up my tenure as guest blogger with recommendations for five books that I think are the best representative scholarship of the field. As with any shortlists, this list will invariably exclude other excellent titles. A final disclaimer: I have met or am even friends with almost all of the authors below, so this is hardly an objective list!

Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China by Matthew H. Sommer 

If you could only read one book on Chinese legal history, I recommend this one. As I explained in an earlier post, this book made a deep impression on me even before I became a graduate student and sought to figure out what kind of historian I wanted to be. Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China exemplifies the very best of new Chinese legal history. Its creative use of legal cases undergirds bold arguments that address big questions at the heart of Chinese family life, gender relations, sexual practices, and state-society relations. Sommer’s other study, Polyandry and Wife-Selling in Qing Dynasty China, was the inaugural winner of the ASLH Peter Gonville Stein Book Award and offers a sequel of sorts. 

Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China by Fei-Hsien Wang

Can there be copyright without laws? This has been the question dominating research on the history of intellectual property in China. Fei-Hsien Wang addresses this important question—but she does so by departing from the assumptions that have encumbered prior debates. Rather than focusing on legislation as the foundation of studying intellectual property, she shifts the perspective to authors, publishers, and guilds and explores the many creative ways they asserted copyright. This book also asks broader questions about the nature of intellectual property that should resonate with researchers in other fields: how it was understood, defended, and appropriated. I always enjoy reading books that bring new perspectives to classic questions, and Pirates and Publishers has garnered considerable praise (as well as a Stein Book Award!) for doing exactly that.

Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1989 by Jennifer Altehenger

Until recently, scholars have dismissed the relevance of law in the early People’s Republic, when the party-state governed through mass campaigns and dismantled the country’s legal institutions and legal profession. Jennifer Altehenger challenges this assumption by surveying the history of mass legal education and demonstrating how the party-state actually cared quite a bit about law. She argues that the promotion of legal education was not a cynical ploy by the regime aimed at inducing compliance but was instead a sincere effort aimed at fostering a new legal consciousness among the masses. How the party-state imparted its legal lessons and how individuals learned—or did not learn—such lessons are the key concerns of this book. Altehenger makes explicit comparisons between the People’s Republic and other socialist legal regimes, and I think this book would indeed make a nice companion to studies like Justice in Luritz: Experiencing Socialist Law in East Germany by Inga Markowitz. I also appreciated its creative methodology, which blended extensive archival research with innovative readings of visual propaganda like posters, photos, and cartoons sprinkled throughout the book.

Intolerable Cruelty: Marriage, Law, and Society in Early Twentieth-Century China by Margaret Kuo 

Margaret Kuo’s study offers a fascinating history of marriage and divorce during China's Republican era in early twentieth century. The empirical core of her study—built on more than 400 cases from the 1930s and 1940s—enables Kuo to amplify the “voices” of litigants, understand ordinary grievances, and trace the contours of an emerging “rights consciousness.” New laws of the Republic did not completely realize the stated aims of their drafters to dismantle Chinese patriarchy or emancipate women. Yet new laws did create liminal openings for women litigants to leave unhappy marriages or challenge abusive husbands. As Kuo shows, many women cannily appropriated new legal language in framing their lawsuits or resorted to creative litigation strategies to win favorable outcomes. Scholars looking for comparative legal histories of marriage, family, divorce, gender relations, and legal consciousness will be well-served by looking at Intolerable Cruelty. 

Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia by Eric Schluessel 

I usually do not recommend books that I have not read myself, but I will make an exception for this one. Friends have raved about Eric Schluessel’s Land of Strangers—even before it was recently awarded the John K. Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association. It is easy to see why. Land of Strangers presents an ambitious history of how the Qing empire remade its western frontier and explores the instrumental role of law in this “civilizing project.” I just added it to my reading list, and I expect many others will do so too. 

China’s War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making of the Modern State, 1842–1965 by Philip Thai

I promised five titles, but I will abuse my prerogative as guest blogger to add my own book to the list! I hope readers concerned with questions of law and state-building; law and economic life; and, yes, law and criminality will find this book of interest. A paperback edition is coming out this December, and I hope this will make China’s War on Smuggling more financially justifiable for instructors to assign in their courses.

It was a true pleasure to use this platform to speak to my fellow legal historians. Once again, I am grateful to Mitra Sharafi for her invitation to serve as guest blogger. During the past year and a half, I have been focused on staying safe, getting on with life, and caring for my newborn son. Legal history was—sadly but unsurprisingly—not something to which I had given much thought amidst the chaos. Yet writing for the blog has served as a welcomed return to an old subject. It helped me reflect on the state of the field and remember how legal history has been intricately tied to my own intellectual journey. It was nice to think more about the scholarship that originally ignited my passions and less about the challenges of pandemic life, if only for a moment.

The last conference I attended prior to the outbreak of the pandemic happened to be ASLH Boston in November 2019. I am still unsure when I will return to the conference circuit again, but I eagerly look forward to seeing everyone soon! Please take care and stay safe.

—Philip Thai
E-mail |
Twitter | @philip_thai

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Weekend Roundup

  • Congratulations to Annette Gordon-Reed on her receipt of Mass Humanities’s Governor’s Award in the Humanities!  (HLT)
  • UC Irvine’s notice of Elizabeth Allen’s Uncertain Refuge: Sanctuary in the Literature of Medieval England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).
  • ICYMI: The "Groveland Four" were wrongly accused in 1949, prosecutor says in motion to clear their names (ABAJ).  Lawsuit Against Harvard May Decide Who Owns Images of Enslaved People, by Valentina Di Liscia (Hyperallergic).  The Hastings College of the Law naming controversy (ABAJ).  Name the Marble Palace after the first Justice John Marshall Harlan?  (Politico).  Daniel Farber on the Four Myths of Presidential Power (HNN).

  Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, October 29, 2021

JSCH 46:2

The Journal of Supreme Court History 46:2 has now been published:

"Destructive to Judicial Dignity:" The Poetry of Melville Weston Fuller
Todd C. Peppers and Mary Crockett Hill

Law Clerk John Costelloe's Photographs of the Stone Court Justices, October 1943
John Q. Barrett

Defending Democracy: Speeches of the Warren Court Justices and Brown v. Board of Education
Robert A. Whitaker

Striving for Civil Rights: Senator Edward W. Brooke, President Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and the Supreme Court
Jordan O. Alexander

The Lone Dissenter
Charles J. Cooper

Judicial Bookshelf
Grier D. Stephenson

Book Reviews

Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court
The Campaign Finance Cases: Buckley, McConnell, Citizens United, and McCutcheon
Paul Kens

–Dan Ernst

A Law and Society Job at John Jay

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York is seeking a PhD or ABD near completion with "an active research agenda in law and society" to fill an assistant professorship.  A member of the department writes, "We are told Research area is open, and we would be VERY delighted to receive applications from sociolegal historians. History is a discipline that we are especially interested in for this search."  

--Dan Ernst

Roberts on the Age of Emergency in the British Empire

Christopher M. Roberts, Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, has posted The Age of Emergency, which appears in the Washington University Global Studies Law Review 99 20 (2021): 99-169:

This article argues that the period from 1914 to 1926 saw a dramatic expansion in the development and dissemination of new forms of repressive public order legality within the British Empire, in a manner that has had enduring negative influence on legal orders around the world up to the present day. The article begins with the wartime years, exploring the innovations and extensions in repressive legality that took place both in Britain and around the empire. It then turns to examine the effect of the war's end, which, far from bringing the new repressive legal orders that had been put in place to an end, saw them extended in order to attempt to address political challenges to the status quo that came in the war's wake. Along the way, the article highlights the close relationship between martial and emergency law on the one hand and more regularized forms of repression on the other. In addition, the article draws attention to the fact that, however much the war may have provided a pretext, the repressive legal orders that were adopted were primarily aimed at suppressing movements fighting for greater rights and representation, be it in the form of a more egalitarian polity at home, or colonial independence across the imperial world. The article concludes with a brief exploration of some of the many ongoing legacies of the repressive approaches to law developed in the period across the former British colonial world.
 --Dan Ernst

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Symposium on "The Reconstruction Amendments" at Notre Dame Law

[We have the following announcement of a conference at Notre Dame Law that starts today and focuses on The Reconstruction Amendments: Essential Documents by Kurt Lash, University of Richmond Law.  DRE]

On Thursday, October 28 and Friday, October 29, 2021 Volume 97 of the Notre Dame Law Review will host its annual Symposium in the Patrick F. McCartan Courtroom and 1030 Jenkins and Nanovic Halls.  This year’s Symposium is titled "Constitutional Reconstruction: History and the Meaning of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments."

The Symposium is being held in conjunction with the publication of Kurt Lash’s The Reconstruction Amendments: Essential Documents by the University of Chicago Press.  These volumes contain primary sources from the time of the adoption of the Reconstruction Amendments.  The Symposium is cosponsored by the Notre Dame Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government; Notre Dame Program in Constitutional Structure; Illinois Program on Constitutional Theory, History, and Law; and Richmond School of Law Program on the American Constitution.

The Symposium will feature three panels of prominent scholars who will speak on what these sources add to the discussion of the original meanings of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.

This year’s keynote speaker is Laura F. Edwards of Princeton University.  Professor Edwards’s keynote address will be published in the Symposium Issue of 97 alongside the articles written by the panelists.  The Symposium Issue will be released in the spring of 2022.

For further updates on the Notre Dame Law Review’s 2021 Symposium, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter: @NotreDameLRev.

Chinese Legal History: A Select Bibliography

In my previous post, I provided a brief overview of Chinese legal historiography. In this penultimate post, I want to offer a resource on more recent historical scholarship looking at any facet of Chinese law. Below is a list of English-language studies of Chinese legal history published after the 1980s with the opening of legal archives in China. These titles focus on the Qing dynasty (1644-1912); the Republican era (1912-1949); and the People’s Republic of China (1949-present). This list is by no means comprehensive, and titles are inexactly grouped by general categories. Since this list is directed at non-specialists, I have not included Chinese or Japanese scholarship, which have done even more work on the subject. (Please also forgive me if I have overlooked anyone's work!) Nonetheless, I hope this list offers an entry point for anyone who want to read more on this subject or diversify their legal history syllabi to include more studies of Chinese legal history.

For my forthcoming final post, I will spotlight five titles with more detailed descriptions. 

Overview of Chinese Legal History 

Xiaoqun Xu, Heaven Has Eyes: A History of Chinese Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).

Philip C. C. Huang, Civil Justice in China: Representation and Practice in the Qing (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996).

-----, Code, Custom, and Legal Practice in China: The Qing and the Republic Compared (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002).

Law, Gender, and Sexuality 

Kathyrn Bernhardt, Women and Property in China, 960–1949 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).

Margaret Kuo, Intolerable Cruelty Marriage, Law, and Society in Early Twentieth-Century China (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012).

Matthew H. Sommer, Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000).

-----, Polyandry and Wife-Selling in Qing Dynasty China Survival Strategies and Judicial Interventions (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015).

Janet M. Theiss, Disgraceful Matters: The Politics of Chastity in Eighteenth-Century China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004).

Courts and Trials 

Daniel Asen, Death in Beijing: Murder and Forensic Science in Republican China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Quinn Javers, Conflict, Community, and the State in Late Imperial Sichuan: Making Local Justice (Milton: Routledge, 2019).

Bradley W. Reed, Talons and Teeth: County Clerks and Runners in the Qing Dynasty (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000).

Xiaoqun Xu, Trial of Modernity: Judicial Reform in Early Twentieth-Century China (1901–1937) (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008). 

Law and Legal Culture 

Robert E. Hegel and Katherine Carlitz, eds., Writing and the Law in Late Imperial China: Crime, Conflict, and Judgment (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007).

Eugenia Lean, Public Passions: The Trial of Shi Jianqiao and the Rise of Popular Sympathy in Republican China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007).

Melissa Macauley, Social Power and Legal Culture: Litigation Masters in Late Imperial China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998).

Ting Zhang, Circulating the Code: Print Media and Legal Knowledge in Qing China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020). 

Law and the Economy 

Maura D. Dykstra, “Complicated Matters: Commercial Dispute Resolution in Qing Chongqing from 1750 to 1911” (PhD dissertation: University of California, Los Angeles, 2014).

Philip Thai, China’s War on Smuggling: Law, Economic Life, and the Making of the Modern State, 1842–1965 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).

Fei-hsien Wang, Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019).

Madeleine Zelin, The Merchants of Zigong: Industrial Entrepreneurship in Early Modern China (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

-----, “A Deep History of Chinese Shareholding,” Law and History Review, vol. 37, no. 2 (2019): 325–351.

Madeleine Zelin, Jonathan K. Ocko, and Robert Gardella, eds., Contract and Property in Early Modern China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).

Taisu Zhang, The Laws and Economics of Confucianism: Kinship and Property in Preindustrial China and England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). 

Law and Ethnic Statecraft 

Wesley B. Chaney, “Land, Trade, and the Law on the Sino-Tibetan Border, 1723–1911” (PhD dissertation: Stanford University, 2016).

-----, “Threats to Gong: Environmental Change and Social Transformation in Northwest China,” Late Imperial China, vol. 41, no. 2 (2020): 45–92.

Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu, and Donald S. Sutton, eds., Empire at the Margins: Culture, Identity, and Frontier in Early Modern China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006).

Ying Hu, “Justice on the Steppe: Legal Institutions and Practice in Qing Mongolia” (PhD dissertation: Stanford University, 2014).

Eric Schluessel, Land of Strangers: The Civilizing Project in Qing Central Asia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020). 

Law and Empire 

Pär Kristoffer Cassel, Grounds of Judgment: Extraterritoriality and Imperial Power in Nineteenth-Century China and Japan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Li Chen, Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes: Sovereignty, Justice, and Transcultural Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

Jenny Huangfu Day, “The Enigma of a Taiping Fugitive: The Illusion of Justice and the ‘Political Offence Exception’ in Extradition from Hong Kong,” Law and History Review, vol. 39, no. 3 (2021): 415–450. 

Law in the Early People’s Republic 

Jennifer Altehenger, Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1989 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center, 2018).

Xiaoping Cong, Marriage, Law and Gender in Revolutionary China, 1940–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Alexander Cook, The Cultural Revolution on Trial: Mao and the Gang of Four (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Neil Diamant, Revolutionizing the Family: Politics, Love, and Divorce in Urban and Rural China, 1949–1968 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000).

Klaus Mühlhahn, Criminal Justice in China: A History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Glenn Tiffert, “Judging Revolution: Beijing and the Birth of the PRC Judicial System (1906–1958)” (PhD dissertation: University of California, Berkeley, 2015).

Thank you once again for reading! I hope everyone will find this resource helpful.

—Philip Thai
E-mail |
Twitter | @philip_thai

Rule of Law in the Civil War Era

Registration may have closed, but still we’ll note that the Fourth Hon. Mark R. Kravitz Symposium of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, The Arc of the Rule of Law, takes place this morning via Zoom.  

Although the Rule of Law has been discussed over the past year in numerous settings and from varying perspectives, there has been little mention of the decade in our Nation’s history when the Rule of Law definitively changed.  Between the 1850s, when the Fugitive Slave Act was vigorously enforced, and the 1860s, when the Reconstruction Amendments ended slavery, defined citizenship, and guaranteed voting rights, the Rule of Law in America was dramatically transformed.  Yet, the effectiveness of that transformation continues to be debated.  What does it take to change the Rule of Law?

Please join our moderator and presenters for a conversation about our Nation’s earlier experience in changing the Rule of Law, how it fell short, and possible lessons for our consideration today.  Questions will be encouraged. 
The Moderator is Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University.  Presenters are Earl M. Maltz, Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University School of Law; John F. Witt, Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor, Yale Law School; and Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut.

--Dan Ernst

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Chinese Legal History: An Overview

The American Society for Legal History (ASLH) has made admirable attempts in recent years to expand its membership base. Scholars like myself—who are neither specialists of American legal history nor trained in law schools—have found a welcoming intellectual home in the society. The Law and History Review is now replete with articles covering legal histories across time and around the world, while events like the Hurst Summer Institute continue to welcome scholars with a diverse range of interests. ASLH even generously agreed to co-host pre-conference workshops organized by the International Society for Chinese Legal History (ISCLH). I have been heartened to see the sincerity of the society in building bridges and reaching out to many academic communities. I hope these efforts continue.

Still, I wonder how all of us can do more to facilitate conversations between different subfields of legal history. In my first and second posts, I focused on my own work and how I became inspired by the field of legal history. In my final posts for the Legal History Blog, I want to provide non-specialists an (oversimplified) introduction to Chinese legal historiography and offer some recommendations on recent Chinese legal history research. I hope such resources will help non-specialists read more Chinese legal history and thereby generate some productive conversations across different fields. 

Lemonade from Lemons: Chinese Legal History Before 1980s 

Prior to the 1980s, foreign scholarship on Chinese legal history was constrained by limited or non-existent access to archival materials. Unable to examine actual legal cases or court records, researchers relied on published materials like legal codes or magistrate handbooks. Or they turned to what materials were available that could serve as proxies for understanding the operation of law within China: land contracts from villages in Hong Kong, imperial documents removed to Taiwan, or rare books from libraries in Japan. Scholarship during this era had to be resourceful and creative. 

Based on materials available at the time, scholars concluded that Chinese laws and courts focused almost exclusively on criminal matters at the expense of civil matters. Faced with unsympathetic magistrates and the potentially ruinous costs of litigation, most ordinary Chinese shied away from lawsuits and instead relied on community mediation to settle disputes. Law, according to these scholars, was simply not relevant in the lives of many ordinary people.

Exclusive reliance on such materials was born of necessity, and generations of scholars prior to the widespread availability of archives did their best to wring findings from limited materials. Yet the exclusive reliance on such materials also drastically constrained the scope of research and provided a very skewed picture of Chinese law and society. (For scholars of American legal history: imagine the challenges of researching American law and society if one had access only to, say, the Constitution, the U.S. Code, some Supreme Court cases, and the writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes.) Chinese legal historians simply could not say much about the daily operation of law, let alone explore the subjectivities of ordinary individuals within the Chinese legal system or their relationship to courts.

New Sources and New Questions: Chinese Legal History After 1980s 

China’s "reform and opening" during the 1980s changed the state of Chinese legal history as archives were steadily opened to researchers. Among the earliest collections made publicly available were the Qing dynasty’s (1644-1912) Board of Punishment records on capital crimes and county-level records on civil lawsuits. They included plaints, testimonies, confessions, judgments, other documents produced from the daily operation of the Chinese legal machinery. These collections were later joined by the opening of other archives from the Republican Era (1912-1949) and even from the early years of the People’s Republic (1949-present), which shed light on the transformation of the Chinese legal system during times of great social and political upheavals. While many archives succumbed to the ravages of time, war, and revolution, scholars have unearthed a surprising number of other materials that survived.

The availability of new materials revolutionized the field. Researchers could finally test old assumptions by reconstructing the actual operation of Chinese law and its interactions with society and economy. Legal records, for instance, clearly show how many ordinary Chinese were far from averse to filing lawsuits or constrained by Confucian precepts that emphasized social harmony above all else. They were, in fact, quite litigious. Ordinary villagers frequently and even boldly filed lawsuit after lawsuit to defend their interests or assert their claims. Unofficial legal expertise was widely and cheaply available, thereby ensuring that even the poorest illiterate peasant did not face insurmountable barriers to courtroom justice. Legal records also show how magistrates were far from being concerned only with criminal matters. They adjudicated all kinds of civil matters, like disputes over land, inheritance, marriage, and debts. Mediation by community and guild leaders still played an important role for many ordinary Chinese seeking justice—but only a role alongside Chinese courts.

The opening of new archives, however, helped researchers do more than simply revise prior generations of findings. Armed with rich materials, they could now ask new questions about Chinese law inside and outside the courtroom. They could, for instance, examine plaints, testimonies, and even literary fiction to understand legal mobilization or the legal consciousness of litigants. They could mine valuable ethnographic evidence captured in lawsuits and judgments to reconstruct the socioeconomic conditions of individuals, families, and communities. Scholars uncovered many practices that were expressly prohibited but widely practiced—including adultery, polyandry, divorce, usury, tax evasion, and land reclamation. They came to appreciate the unenviable attempts by magistrates trying to strike a tricky balance between finding an amenable solution for litigants while adhering to the letter of the law. More importantly, the discovery of new archives enabled researchers to look beyond law centered in capitals and explore how they operated on the peripheries for different communities and different ethnic groups—Mongols, Manchus, Tibetans, Uighurs, and so many others along with Han Chinese.

Chinese legal history scholarship is still dominated by studies of the Republican era and (especially) the Qing dynasty. The legal history of the People’s Republic remains relatively underdeveloped due to renewed archival restrictions and the political sensitivities of the current regime to its own history. Nonetheless, more access to new sources has opened more avenues to new questions. The field in past decades has produced one pathbreaking study after another. Scholars have addressed questions fundamental to our understanding of law in Chinese society and economy, as well as questions that potentially lend themselves to comparisons between Chinese legal history and other fields of legal history. How did law bind the multi-ethnic, polyglot, and legally pluralistic Qing empire? How did the Republic of China try to reform laws and courts during the tenuous transition from empire to nation? Or how did this reform unfold amidst the tumultuous transformation of Chinese society, economy, and politics and the redefinition of the relationship between China and the world? How did the People’s Republic of China balance competing imperatives, especially guaranteeing the absolute authority of the party-state while ensuring the efficient operation of law? More work remains to be done, but the field has much to offer to everyone.

In my final posts, I will provide a select bibliography of Chinese legal history as a resource for interested readers. I will also spotlight five titles that I hope are especially worthy of a place on your legal history syllabi or reading lists.

Thank you once again for reading!

—Philip Thai
E-mail |

Twitter | @philip_thai

CFP: Law and Humanities Junior Scholars Workshop

 [We have the following CFP.  DRE]

2022 Law and Humanities Junior Scholars Workshop

Call for Papers

Columbia Law School, Georgetown University Law School, Stanford Law School, UCLA School of Law, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California Center for Law, History, and Culture invite submissions for the 21st meeting of the Law and Humanities Junior Scholars Workshop, to be held at USC School of Law in Los Angeles, CA, on Tuesday, May 24, and Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

We plan to hold this Workshop in person, subject always to the possibility that changing conditions may dictate otherwise. We are carefully monitoring the local public health conditions and will follow the guidelines specified by the Centers for Disease Control, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and the university regarding public gatherings and mandatory masks for indoor gatherings. All those attending in person must be vaccinated. We will determine and announce well in advance of the Workshop whether the format must be switched from in-person to online.

About the workshop.  The paper competition is open to untenured professors, advanced graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, and independent scholars working in law and the humanities. In addition to drawing from numerous humanistic fields, we welcome critical, qualitative work in the social sciences.  We are especially interested in submissions from members of traditionally underrepresented groups. We welcome submissions from those working at regional and teaching-intensive institutions. Based on anonymous evaluation by an interdisciplinary selection committee, between five and ten papers will be chosen for presentation at the Workshop in May. At the Workshop, two senior scholars will comment on each paper. Commentators and other Workshop participants will be asked to focus specifically on the strengths and weaknesses of the selected scholarly projects, with respect to subject and methodology. The selected papers will then serve as the basis for a larger conversation among all the participants about the evolving standards by which we judge excellence and creativity in interdisciplinary scholarship, as well as about the nature of interdisciplinarity itself.

The selected papers will appear in a special issue of the Legal Scholarship Network; there is no other publication commitment. (We will accommodate the wishes of chosen authors who prefer not to have their paper posted publicly with us because of publication commitments to other journals.)

The Workshop will pay the domestic travel and hotel expenses of authors whose papers are selected for presentation. For authors requiring airline travel from outside the United States, the Workshop will cover such travel expenses up to a maximum of $1250. For those who, because of financial or health concerns, are unable to attend the Workshop in person, the Committee will consider providing for online participation in the Workshop via Zoom.

Submission instructions.  Papers must be works-in-progress that do not exceed 15,000 words in length (including footnotes/endnotes); most papers selected for inclusion in recent years have been at least 10,000 words long. An abstract of no more than 200 words must also be included with the paper submission. A dissertation chapter may be submitted, but we strongly suggest that it be edited so as to stand alone as a piece of work with its own integrity. A paper that has been submitted for publication is eligible for selection so long as it will not be in galley proofs or in print at the time of the Workshop; it is important that authors still be in a position at the time of the Workshop to consider comments they receive there and to incorporate them as they think appropriate in their revisions.

We ask that those submitting papers be careful to omit or redact any information in the body of the paper that might serve to identify them, as we adhere to an anonymous or “blind” selection process.

Submissions (in Microsoft Word—no pdf files, please) will be accepted until December 15, 2021, and should be sent by e-mail to: Please be sure to include your name, institutional affiliation (if any), and phone and e-mail contact information in your covering email, not in the paper itself.

For more information, please send an email inquiry to

Aomar Boum, UCLA, Anthropology.
Martha Jones, Johns Hopkins University, History
Naomi Mezey, Georgetown University, Law
Sherally Munshi, Georgetown University, Law
Melynda Price, University of Kentucky, Law
Norman Spaulding, Stanford University, Law
Clyde Spillenger, UCLA, Law
Simon Stern, University of Toronto, Law & English
Nomi Stolzenberg, University of Southern California, Law
Program Committee, 2022 Law and Humanities Junior Scholars Workshop

The Law and Humanities Junior Scholars Workshop is committed to Anti-Racism both inside and outside the academy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Colley in Washington History Seminar

The Washington History Seminar will convene virtually on Monday, November 1 at 4:00 pm ET for Linda Colley, Princeton University, to discuss “the aims and methods involved in her recent book The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions and the Making of the Modern World (2021), and comment[] in retrospect on some of its arguments about the connections after 1750 between patterns of conflict, the exponential spread of written constitutions across continents, and the progress (and limits) of rights.”  Daniel Hulsebosch, New York University, and Dane Kennedy, George Washington University, will comment.  Register here.

--Dan Ernst

Monday, October 25, 2021

Judge McKeown on Politics and Judicial Ethics

The Honorable M. Margaret McKeown, United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has published Politics and Judicial Ethics: A Historical Perspective in the forum, Legal Ethics in Today’s Political Climate, in the Yale Law Journal.  The essay “explores the ethics and politics of extrajudicial activities from a distinctly historical perspective. While others have written about judges and their political and extrajudicial endeavors, this Essay situates its discussion within the evolution of judicial ethics codes, beginning in antiquity and proceeding to the present.”

--Dan Ernst

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Weekend Roundup

  • We have word of two upcoming events sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society.  On  “November 10, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. EST, the Society will host A Virtual Conversation - The Original Meaning of the 14th Amendment with Randy Barnett and Evan Bernick.  The discussion will be based on their newly published book, The Original Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment: Its Letter and Spirit. On December 8, 2021, at 12:00 p.m. EST, the Society will host Making Minimum Wage: Elsie Parrish v. The West Coast Hotel Company: A Lecture by Helen Knowles.  The lecture is inspired by her newly published book, Making Minimum Wage: Elsie Parrish v. The West Coast Hotel Company.”  Both are free to all and will be held over Zoom.
  • The Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory has announced “a new lecture series, the Max Planck Lectures in Legal History and Legal Theory.  Six times a year, renowned scholars in the fields of legal history and legal theory are invited to present their current research.  The lectures are open to the public and will be held at 4.15 pm (on changing weekdays) at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory.” 
  • New in the latest issue of the Journal of American History: “There isn't no trouble at all if the state law would keep out”: Indigenous People and New York's Carceral State by Christopher Clements.  The article “examines the history of racialized policing practices, jurisdictional disputes, and tribal governance in and around reservation communities in New York. Focusing primarily on the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, which straddles the U.S.- Canada border, he asks how carceral state development affected Indigenous people and lands and how carcerality intertwined with settler colonialism during the first half of the twentieth century.”
  • Martti Koskenniemi, Professor of International Law (emeritus) University of Helsinki, will speak in the Global Forum Seminar of the School of Governance, Law and Society of Tallinn University on Expansion of International Legal History: Recent Debates on November 23, 2021, 16:00 - 18:00.
  • Yesterday the University at Buffalo Law School held the panel discussion “Sex, Solicitation, and the Supreme Court: Remembering People v. Uplinger.”  The session addressed “the ordeal of Robert Uplinger, a gay man who was arrested in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood in 1981 after propositioning another man on the steps of the Lenox Hotel. The other person turned out to be an undercover police officer, and Uplinger was charged with violating a state law prohibiting loitering ‘for the purpose to engage in deviate sexual intercourse.’” More
  • We just learned of the Duke Center for Firearms Law’s Repository of Historical Gun Laws, “a searchable database of gun laws from the medieval age to 1776 in England and from the colonial era to the middle of the twentieth century in the United States.”
  • ICYMI: An illustrated history of vaccine mandates in the United States (Chicago Tribune). Inside the Robert Caro Archive (Gothamist)(H/t: JQB).

 Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Weinberg Rewrites Wong Kim Ark

Jonathan Weinberg, Wayne State University Law School, has posted Wong Kim Ark Rewritten, which is forthcoming in Feminist Judgments: Immigration Law Opinions Rewritten, ed. Kathleen Kim, Kevin Lapp, & Jennifer Lee (Cambridge University Press, 2022):

This contribution to Feminist Judgments: Immigration Law Opinions Rewritten . . . reimagines the Supreme Court’s opinion in Wong Kim Ark v. United States. The Court in that 1898 case held that the child of Chinese immigrants, born in the United States, was a U.S. citizen. The rewritten opinion explains how the legal landscape of Wong Kim Ark was shaped not only by racism, but by white Americans’ beliefs about Chinese women’s propensities and morality, Chinese men’s conformance to appropriate gender roles, the right of Chinese merchants to connubial access to their wives, and the nature of Chinese families.
–Dan Ernst

Thursday, October 21, 2021

ASLH NOLA: Updated Schedule

The American Society for Legal History has posted an updated schedule for its upcoming meeting in New Orleans, November 4-6.  "Several graduate student 'rapporteurs' will be tweeting (#aslh2021) about highlights from some panels."


Bachiochi, "The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision"

Notre Dame Press has published The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, by Erika Bachiochi (Ethics and Public Policy Center / Abigail Adams Institute). A description from the Press:

In The Rights of Women, Erika Bachiochi explores the development of feminist thought in the United States. Inspired by the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Bachiochi presents the intellectual history of a lost vision of women’s rights, seamlessly weaving philosophical insight, biographical portraits, and constitutional law to showcase the once predominant view that our rights properly rest upon our concrete responsibilities to God, self, family, and community.

Bachiochi proposes a philosophical and legal framework for rights that builds on the communitarian tradition of feminist thought as seen in the work of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Jean Bethke Elshtain. Drawing on the insight of prominent figures such as Sarah Grimké, Frances Willard, Florence Kelley, Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Mary Ann Glendon, this book is unique in its treatment of the moral roots of women’s rights in America and its critique of the movement’s current trajectory. The Rights of Women provides a synthesis of ancient wisdom and modern political insight that locates the family’s vital work at the very center of personal and political self-government. Bachiochi demonstrates that when rights are properly understood as a civil and political apparatus born of the natural duties we owe to one another, they make more visible our personal responsibilities and more viable our common life together.

This smart and sophisticated application of Wollstonecraft’s thought will serve as a guide for how we might better value the culturally essential work of the home and thereby promote authentic personal and political freedom. The Rights of Women will interest students and scholars of political theory, gender and women’s studies, constitutional law, and all readers interested in women’s rights.

Advance praise:

"Bachiochi adds an important new voice to the conversation criticizing the nation’s turn to revering market profit and the freedom to be left alone above all else. Feminists may not agree with all of her critique of contemporary feminism, but they would do well to engage with her powerful argument that conceptualizing the movement’s goal as sex equality in the workplace is too narrow." —Maxine Eichner

“Rights cannot flourish alone. They need to be embedded in a thicker moral context that gives voice to the goods that they should serve, the social duties that govern their exercise, and the virtues that enable respect for them. In this book, Erika Bachiochi recovers a tradition of thought about women’s rights that fully recognizes this and, with Mary Wollstonecraft at one end and Mary Ann Glendon at the other, offers an important, salutary correction, not only to libertarian feminism in particular but also to contemporary rights-talk in general.” —Nigel Biggar,

More information is available here. You can listen to an interview with the author here, at New Books Network.

-- Karen Tani

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Stanford's Legal History Fellowship

The Stanford Center for Law and History has announced a fellowship “intended for people who have recently completed (or will soon complete) their training in law and history and who seek thereafter to pursue their first tenure-track academic position at the intersection of the two fields.”

The Stanford Center for Law and History is a residential fellowship that provides an opportunity to conduct research in the dynamic environment of Stanford University. The fellowship term is for two years. We expect that fellows will dedicate most of their time to pursuing their proposed research projects, and the fellowship is designed to ensure meaningful mentorship from faculty within both the Law School and the History Department. Fellows will also devote some time to organizing and implementing other Center activities, including an ongoing workshop series and an annual conference. The fellowship provides a significant opportunity to become part of a lively law-school-wide community of individuals with an interest in academia through attending weekly faculty lunch seminars and by participating in activities with the other fellows at Stanford Law School to learn more about one another’s scholarship and about academic life more generally. Fellows are also encouraged to attend and participate in the broad range of lectures and workshops available within the broader university, including inter alia, the History Department and the Stanford Humanities Center.

For the 2022-2023 fellowship, we will provide a workspace, a competitive salary, and a generous benefits package. Applicants who have completed (or are soon to complete) both a J.D. and a Ph.D in history are strongly preferred.  The fellowship is expected to start around August 1, 2022, but there is some flexibility as concerns the exact start date. [More.]
–Dan Ernst