The Surrency Prize, named in honor of Erwin Surrency, a founding member of the Society
and for many years the editor of its publication the American Journal of Legal History,
is awarded annually, on the recommendation of the Surrency Prize Committee, to the person or
persons who wrote the best article published in the Society's journal, the Law and History
Review, in the previous year.
The 2007 Surrency Prize was split between Alison Morantz for "There's No Place Like Home: Homestead
Exemption and Judicial Constructions of Family in Nineteenth-Century America," in LHR 24:2
and John Wertheimer for "Gloria's Story: Adulterous Concubinage and the Law in Twentieth-Century
Guatemala" also in LHR 24:2.
The citations read as follows:
"Alison Morantz uses a careful and original analysis of homestead exemptions in state law to weave a new national story
about the relationship between land ownership and family. The article argues persuasively that seemingly
straightforward homestead statutes, originally designed to protect the family home, raised questions about the
mechanisms for state intervention and opened a process that helped to redefine the family. Exposing the links
between the contours of private law and modern state structures, Morantz's story suggests that the nexus of
gendered legal norms and state regulation - often associated by historians with the emergence of the welfare
state in the twentieth century - arose earlier and in overlooked legal arenas. Her piece forces a
reconsideration of some of the most fundamental assumptions about the intersections of private and public in
"John Wertheimer's is a captivating account of the legal construction of property and family in Central America.
The article masterfully juxtaposes the story of two people's social and legal relations over several decades
and an analysis of broad trends in Guatemalan law that influenced and constrained these subjects' choices.
The approach reveals the emergence of unintended consequences from the combination of haphazardly composed
individual legal strategies and well-intentioned shifts in legal policy. Wertheimer argues that progressive
reforms in family and property law can inadvertently facilitate retrogressive social arrangements - in this case,
adulterous concubinage. In blending micro-history with a careful attention to wide political and social contexts,
Wertheimer provides a methodological map for exploring the workings and construction of everyday
The selection of the winner of the Surrency Prize for 2008 is under the
charge of the Society’s Committee on the Surrency Prize:
Victoria Saker Woeste, Chair, American Bar Foundation
Annette Gordon-Reed, New York Law School <email@example.com>
Michael Grossberg, Indiana University <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Edward A. Purcell, Jr., New York Law School <email@example.com>
Richard Ross (2006), University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
The Sutherland Prize, named in
honor of the late Donald W. Sutherland, a distinguished historian of the
law of medieval England and a mentor of many students, is awarded annually,
on the recommendation of the Sutherland Prize Committee, to the person or
persons who wrote the best article on English legal history published in
the previous year.
The Sutherland Prize for 2007 was awarded to Sara Butler of Loyola University, New Orleans
"Degrees of Culpability: Suicide Verdicts, Mercy, and the Jury in Medieval England,"
in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies in the Spring of 2006in LHR 23:2.
The citation read:
"Butler's article is an exhaustive and imaginative study of the verdicts passed by coroners' inquests in cases of
suicide recorded by the courts of late medieval England. It is remarkable for several outstanding features. First,
the research is wide-ranging and precise: she has studied every coroner's roll that has survived from the period up to
1500 and also all the eyre and assize rolls fiom this period for the counties of Essex and York.
Together they yield a database of over 700 cases in all where the jurors pronounced a verdict of felonia de se.
Second, it is empirical history at its best because the author has reflected carefully but creatively upon the few
words that describe the circumstances of each case and is thereby able to elucidate the complex attitudes of medieval
people towards common experiences of everyday life such as child-rearing, insanity, the death of loved ones and old age.
Indeed Butler's analysis delights the reader with her ability to explain the apparently paradoxical: for example,
why did the apparently accidental death of a baby boy by stabbing himself with a pair of shears generate a verdict
of suicide in a fourteenth-century coroner's court, given the severe consequences for his parents of a sharneful
burial in unconsecrated ground and failure to set his soul to rest? Answer: because the jurors wanted to send a public
message to the community that parental negligence was unacceptable. It is this imaginative ability that generates
the article's significant and sometimes revisionist conclusions, which are its third outstanding feature. Butler
argues that medieval jurors could be compassionate in exceptional circumstances, but insists they were more concerned
about mortal sin; she suggests in general that they exhibited complex attitudes towards life-events which were very
different from those a modern reader would expect; and most importantly, she demonstrates that the decisions of
late-medieval law courts represented the values of local communities, as much as the doctrines of the law. We commend
her work to you warmly."
The selection of the winner of the Sutherland Prize for 2008 is under the
charge of the Society’s Committee on the Sutherland Prize:
James C. Oldham (2008), Chair, Georgetown University Law Center <email@example.com>
Joseph Biancalana (2006), University of Cincinnati <firstname.lastname@example.org>
David Sugarman (2007), Lancaster University (UK) <email@example.com>
J. Willard Hurst
Summer Institute in Legal History
The Society's J. Willard Hurst Memorial
Committee is charged with task of appropriately remembering the late J.
Willard Hurst, who was for many years the dean of historians of American
law. On the Committee's recommendation, the Society, in conjunction with
the Institute for Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin Law School
has sponsored four biennial J. Willard Hurst Summer Institutes in Legal History.
The purpose of the Hurst Summer Institute is to advance the approach to
legal scholarship fostered by J. Willard Hurst in his teaching, mentoring,
and scholarship. The "Hurstian perspective" emphasizes the
importance of understanding law in context; it is less concerned with the
characteristics of law as developed by formal legal institutions than with
the way in which positive law manifests itself as the "law in
action." The Hurst Summer Institute assists young scholars from law,
history, and other disciplines in pursuing research in legal history.
The fourth Hurst Summer Institute was held this summer in Madison,
Wisconsin, from June 10 through June 22.
The selection committee received 32 applications and selected 12 Fellows. All 12 accepted and attended the Institute.
The Institute lasted two weeks and consisted of both reading/discussion sessions and presentations of their own work
(usually dissertations) by the fellows. This year Barbara Welke led the seminars. Lawrence Friedman, Bob Gordon, Holly
Brewer, Margot Canaday, and Dirk Hartog served as guest faculty.
All reports are that this was an extraordinary two weeks. The fellows' evaluations, conversations with visiting
faculty, and the our committee's own observations revealed that Barbara did a brilliant job in leading the
discussions, exploring the readings, and providing constructive criticism to the Fellows on their own projects.
Faculty reported that the Fellows were individually and collectively engaged and engaging. The Fellows' evaluations
were that the program was important to their intellectual development and their understanding of the field.
Another Hurst Summer Institute is planned for the summer of 2009. The members of the Committee for 2008 are:
Rayman L. Solomon (2006), Chair, Rutgers University <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Edward Balleisen (2008), Duke University <email@example.com>
Lawrence Friedman (2007), Stanford University <LMF@stanford.edu>
Robert W. Gordon (2007), Yale University <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hendrik Hartog (2006), Princeton University <email@example.com>
Laura Kalman (2008), University of California, Santa Barbara <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jonathan Lurie (2006), Rutgers Newark <email@example.com>
Arthur J. McEvoy (2008), University of Wisconsin (Madison) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Aviam Soifer (2007), University of Hawaii, <email@example.com>
Barbara Welke (ex officio) (Hurst Institute Leader), University of Minnesota <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Paul L. Murphy Award
Award, an annual research grant of $1,500, is intended to assist the
research and publication of scholars new to the field of U.S.
constitutional history or the history of American civil rights / civil
liberties. To be eligible for
the Murphy Award, an applicant must possess the following qualifications:
be engaged in significant research and writing on U.S.
constitutional history or the history of civil rights/civil liberties in
the United States, with preference accorded to applicants employing
multi-disciplinary research approaches;
hold, or be a candidate for, the Ph.D. in History or a
related discipline; and
not yet have published a book-length work in U.S.
constitutional history or the history of American civil rights/civil
liberties, and, if employed by an institution of higher learning, not yet
The Society's Committee for Research Fellowships and Awards makes the Murphy Award. In
2007 the Award was made to Jennifer Uhlmann, for a project entitled, "The Communist Civil Rights Movement:
Radical Legal Activism in the United States, 1919-1956."
The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation* made available of a number of
fellowships for 2008, intended to support research and writing in American
legal history. The number of awards to be made, and their value, is at the
discretion of the Foundation. In the past three years, three to five awards
have been made annually by the trustees of the Foundation, in amounts up to
$5,000. Preference is given to scholars at the early stages of their
careers. The Society's Committee for Research Fellowships and Awards reviews the
applications and makes recommendations to the Foundation
* The Cromwell Foundation was established in 1930 to
promote and encourage scholarship in legal history, particularly in the
colonial and early national periods of the United States. The Foundation
has supported the publication of legal records as well as historical
In 2007, Cromwell fellowships were awarded to:
Lindsay Campbell, who holds law degrees from the University of British Columbia and is a Ph.D. candidate in the JSP
Program at Berkeley for her work on the meaning and scope of rights to free expression and a free press in
Massachusetts and Nova Scotia in the early nineteenth century.
Christopher Schmidt, who has recently been awarded a J.D. from the Harvard Law School and a Ph.D. in the
History of American Civilization from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, for his work reinterpreting the
origins of Brown v. Board of Education to show the emergence of racial liberalism as a ruling ideology.
Hilary Soderland, a Ph.D. in Archaeology from Cambridge University, and, I believe, a first-year law student at
Berkeley, for her work on how the first century of archaeology law has shaped the study of Native American cultures.
Joshua Stein, a Ph.D. candidate in the UCLA Department of History, for his work studying assault and battery
prosecutions in New York City from 1760-1840, in order to understand local systems of justice and changing
attitudes towards violence.
Application Process for 2008
Details about the application process for all these awards fellowships
and a list of the committee members will be available on this page shortly.
Cromwell Book Prize
The William Nelson
Cromwell Foundation* awards annually a
$5000 prize for excellence in scholarship in the field of American Legal
History by a junior scholar. The prize is designed to recognize and promote
new work in the field by graduate students, law students, post-doctoral
fellows and faculty not yet tenured. The work may be in any area of
American legal history, including constitutional and comparative studies,
but scholarship in the colonial and early national periods will receive
some preference. The prize has been awarded in the past to "first
books," and this year it has been decided to limit the prize to books.
Doctoral dissertations (and student-written articles) have their own
The Foundation awards the prize on the recommendation of the Cromwell Prize
Advisory Committee of the American Society for Legal History. The Committee
will consider books and articles published in the previous calendar year.
The Society will announce the award after the annual meeting of the
Cromwell Foundation, which normally takes place in the first week of
November. For details about this year's award process see below.
The prize for 2007 was awarded to
Professor Roy Kreitner of Tel Aviv University, for Calculating Promises The Emergence Of Modern American
Contract Doctrine published by Stanford University Press. The Committee's citation read:
"Kreitner incisively analyzes the theories of leading contract scholars--James Barr Ames, W. R. Anson, J. H. Beale,
Arthur Corbin, 0liver Wendell Holmes, Christopher Columbus Langdell, J. F. Pollock, and Samuel Williston--to argue
for revising prevailing views that contract doctrines have evolved incrementally over centuries. During the
closing decades of the nineteenth century, courts came under considerable pressure to fashion doctrines
limiting the long-established system granting juries wide discretion. Kreitner finds that these eight
scholars revolutionized theories about the rules governing contract agreement and enforcement within a wider
cultural transformation in which individuals confronted the risks and opportunities of a new American industrial
society. These scholars fashioned theories that within a century would be identified with the law and economics
movement. Chapters 'revisiting' gifts and promises, perceptions about insurance contracts and gambling
conceived of as 'speculations of contract', and the varied texts of 'incomplete contract' reveal, in Kreitner's
probing narrative, how established contract 'metaphysics' gave way to the assumption that contracting parties were
rational calculating persons. Thus, by the end of the century, 'The assumption of calculation is encapsulated in the
theory of consideration, which at once strips the past of meaning (past consideration is no consideration) and at
the same time assumes equivalence while denying the law's capacity for examining consideration's adequacy.' Even
so, Kreitner's book asks legal academics, practicing lawyers, and judges to deeply rethink their assumptions
about the origins of American contract theory.
* For a brief description of the Foundation, see above Cromwell Fellowships .
As mentioned above in connection with the
Cromwell Book Prize, that prize (even without the name "book" in
it) has had a tendency to go to "first books." Although
dissertations and student-written articles (e.g., in law reviews) were eligible
for the prize, two successive committees felt that such works did not stand
much of chance of winning the prize when faced with the competition of a
substantial monograph. The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation*
agreed, and in 2007 generously offered to fund another prize of $2500 for
dissertations accepted or student articles written in the previous year
in the general field of American legal history (broadly
conceived), with some preference for those in the area of early America or the
colonial period. Details about this year's awards process are given below.
The Cromwell Dissertaion Prize for 2007 was awarded to Christopher Beauchamp for his dissertation
The Telephone Patents: Intellectual Property, Business and the Law in the United States and Britain,
1876-1900--a dissertation submitted for a Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 2006. The Committee's citation
"The dissertation uses complex corporate and legal records to examine the role of patents and patent litigation in
the early struggles for control over the telephone businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, and it thereby explores
the role of law in modern industrial development. Written with both an expansive understanding of the inquiry and a
keen eye for detail, the dissertation opens up important questions in law, economics, and the relation between them.
It will be an important book, admirable for its breadth of vision and its rich use evidence, and the Committee is
pleased that the first dissertation to be awarded the Cromwell Prize is of such remarkable quality."
* For a brief description of the Foundation, see above Cromwell Fellowships.
Nomination Process for 2008
Anyone may nominate works for the prizes. The Committee
will accept nominations from authors, dissertation advisors, presses, or
anyone else. Nominations for this year’s prizes should include a curriculum vitae of the author and
be accompanied by a hard copy version of the work (no electronic
submissions, please) sent to each member of the committee and postmarked no
later than May 31, 2008:
Professor Charles W. McCurdy, Chair
Professor of History and Law
Randall Hall, P.O. Box 400180
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904
Professor Holly Brewer
History Department, North Carolina State University
350 Withers Hall, Campus Box 8108
Raleigh, NC 27695-8108
Professor Tony Freyer
University Research Professor of History and Law
306 Law Center
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0382
Professor Risa Goluboff
University of Virginia Law School
580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Professor Philip Hamburger
Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th St.
New York, New York 10027-7297
Professor Gerard Magliocca
Indiana University School of Law--Indianapolis
Lawrence W. Inlow Hall
530 West New York St
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3225
Professor Richard Ross
Professor of Law and History
University of Illinois College of Law
504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
Kathryn T. Preyer
Named after the late Kathryn T. Preyer, a distinguished
historian of the law of early America known for her generosity to young
legal historians, the program of Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars is designed to
help legal historians at the beginning of their careers. At the annual
meeting of the Society two younger legal historians designated Kathryn T.
Preyer Scholars will present what would normally be their first papers to
the Society. (Whether there is a Kathryn T. Preyer Memorial Panel at the
meeting, as there was this year, or whether the Preyer Scholars present
their papers as part of other panel depends on the subject-matter of the
winning papers and on what is on the rest of the program.) The generosity
of Professor Preyer's friends and family has enabled the Society to offer a
small honorarium to the Preyer Scholars and to reimburse, in some measure
or entirely, their costs of attending the meeting.
The competition for Preyer Scholars is organized by the Society's Kathryn
T. Preyer Memorial Committee. Details about this year's award process will
be available on this page shortly.
This year's Preyer Memorial Committee received seventeen entries and reported that had a very difficu1t time choosing among them.
After extended discussion, they chose two 2007 Preyer Scholars: Gautham Rao, a Ph.D. student at the University of
Chicago, for "The Federal Posse Comitatus Doctrine: Slavery, Compulsion, and Statecraft in Mid-Nineteenth Century
America," (forthcoming, LHR) and Laura Weinrib, a Ph.D. student at Princeton University and a graduate of the
Harvard Law School graduate, for "The Sex Side of Civil Liberties, United States v. Dennett and the
Changing Face of Free Speech." Maeva Marcus chaired the Preyer Panel at the annual meeting, and Linda Kerber and
Bob Gordon served as commentators.
Application Process for 2008
The competition for this year’s Preyer Scholars will be
organized by the Society’s Kathryn T. Preyer Memorial Committee:
Laura Kalman, Chair, University of California, Santa Barbara <email@example.com>
Lyndsay Campbell, University of California, Berkeley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Christine Desan, Harvard University <email@example.com>
Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania <firstname.lastname@example.org>
David Konig, Washington University in St. Louis <email@example.com>.
The two winners of the competition will be named Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars. Each will present the paper that he or
she submitted to the competition at the Society's annual meeting in Ottawa in November, 2008.
Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars will receive a $250 cash award and reimbursement of expenses of up to $750 for travel,
hotels and meals.
Submissions are welcome on any
legal, institutional and/or constitutional aspect of American history. Graduate students, law students,
and other early-career scholars who have presented no more than two papers
at a national conference are eligible to apply. Papers already submitted to the ASLH Program Committee,
whether or not accepted for an existing panel, and papers never submitted
are all equally eligible for the competition.
Submissions should include a curriculum vitae of the author, contact
information, and a complete draft of the paper to be presented. The draft may be longer than could
be presented in the time available at the meeting (twenty minutes) and
should contain supporting documentation, but one of the criteria for
selection will be the suitability of the paper for reduction to a
twenty-minute oral presentation. The deadline for submission this year is February 1, 2008.
Please send submissions to
Laura Kalman <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
and she will forward them to the other members of the Committee.
John Phillip Reid
Named for John Phillip Reid, the prolific
legal historian and founding member of the Society, and made possible by
the generous contributions of his friends and colleagues, the John Phillip
Reid Book Award is an annual award for the best book published in English in
the previous year in any of the fields broadly defined as Anglo-American
The award is given on the recommendation of the Society's John Philip Reid
Prize Committee. Details about this year's award process will be available
on this site shortly.
This year's Reid Prize to Professor William Wiecek of the Syracuse University School of Law for
The Birth of the Modern Constitution: The United States Supreme Court, 1941-1953, volume 12 of the Oliver
Wendell Holrnes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States. The committee's citation read:
"The Birth of the Modern Constitution is characterized by the comprehensiveness, attention to sources,
and concern for detail that we have come to associate with the Holmes Devise series. In addition, it reflects a
wide and deep reading of the huge volume of scholarly literature that has been written about the Court during the
fourteen years it studies and offers judicious judgments on the issues raised by that scholarship. Above all,
Wiecek's volume is highly readable, displays a singular ability to distill and explain complex legal issues in an
easily understood fashion, and has a clear interpretative focus. Wiecek makes a clear and convincing argument that
the Court was in a period of profound transition between 1941 and 1953, and his volume provides one of the best
contexts for understanding the jurisprudential challenges and shifts the Court encountered between the
late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth century.. Future teachers of constitutional law will be much in William Wiecek's
Nomination Process for 2008
For the 2008 prize, the Committee will accept nominations from authors, presses, or anyone else, of any book that
bears a copyright date in 2007.
Nominations for this year's prize should include a curriculum vitae of the author.
Nominations should be submitted by May 30, 2008 to:
Dr. Craig E. Klafter
Treasurer-Elect of the American Society for Legal History,
336 36th Street, #372
Bellingham, WA 98225
In addition, a copy of the book should be mailed to each member of the committee:
Professor William Nelson
Chair, ASLH Committee on the Reid Prize
New York University School of Law
860 Channel Road
Woodmere, NY 11598
Professor Michael Les Benedict
Ohio State University
230 West 17th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
Professor Christian G. Fritz
University of New Mexico, School of Law
1117 Stanford Drive, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
Professor Richard Helmholz
University of Chicago, School of Law
1111 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637