Awards for 2005

New for 2005: The Society announces the first of competition for Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars and for the John Philip Reid Book Award. See below for details.

Surrency Prize

The Surrency Prize, named in honor of Erwin C. Surrency, a founding member and first president of the Society and for many years the editor of its former publication, the American Journal of Legal History, is awarded annually for the best article published in the Society’s journal, the Law and History Review, in the previous year.

The 2005 Surrency Prize was awarded to Professor Amalia Kessler of the Stanford University School of Law for her article, “Enforcing Virtue: Social Norms and Self-Interest in an 18th century Merchant Court,” which appeared in volume 22 of the Law and History Review (2004).

The citation read: ” Amalia Kessler uses a case study of the work of the Paris merchant court to explore theories about economic development and behaviour and the influence of religious norms on commercial law.  Her argument, securely anchored in extensive archival work, challenges the traditional narrative which lauds merchant courts as ‘key to the emergence of modern commercial law because they provided a forum in which merchants could [avoid] the learned law so as to foster norms of capitalist self-interest.’  In Kessler’s reading of the evidence, mercantile jurisprudence relied on the ideal of the virtuous merchant which ‘drew no line between his standing as a merchant, citizen, and good Christian.’  In adding a religious dimension to the administration of early modern commercial law, Kessler’s work is relevant to the history of law in many jurisdictions and at widely varying points in time.”

Sutherland Prize

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 2005 was awarded to Professor Danya C. Wright of the University of Florida, Levin College of Law for her article ‘Well-Behaved Women Don’t Make History’: Rethinking English Family Law,” which appeared in volume 19 of the Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal (2004). The Committee’s citation read: “Professor Wright’s offers not only a compelling analysis of the historical experience of law by women in nineteenth-century England , but an ambitious, philosophically complex assessment of the limits of family law as a guarantor of women’s rights. The article’s arguments rest upon an impressive base of primary research in The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office): Wright has used quantitative data on the operation of the Divorce Court in the 1850s and 1860s to examine legal outcomes with regard to issues such as separation and divorce, child custody and alimony. Her findings highlight the significance to legal outcomes of factors such as stage of marriage-which exerted a crucial impact upon rates of judicial separation relative to divorce and the success of custody orders. In themselves, these data add significant new dimensions to our understanding of the operation of the reformed court systems of the Victorian era. But the importance of Wright’s article is far more broad than this, for her article provides a sustained and trenchant critique of the “liberalization narrative” of family law, the dominant tradition of interpretation that celebrates the nineteenth-century evolution of legal practices that recognize and protect women’s special interests in the family, as opposed to the public sphere. By scrutinizing data from the first decade of the Divorce Court ‘s operation, Wright is able to mount a convincing attack on the liberalization narrative. Her data and analysis suggest that the legal reforms that gave rise to family law were ultimately destructive of women’s legal and economic interests: by protecting women’s special interests, the new family law tradition perpetuated their relegation to an inferior domestic sphere. This is a thought-provoking article that will doubtless provoke continued debate within legal history for years to come. It deserves a wide readership and amply merits the award.”

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 three 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.

A Hurst Summer Institute was held in the summer of 2005, and one is planned for the summer of 2007. Further details on the 2007 Institute will be forthcoming.

Paul L. Murphy Award

Applications are being accepted for the 2006 Paul L. Murphy Award, honoring the memory of Paul L. Murphy, late Professor of History and American Studies at the University of Minnesota and distinguished scholar of U.S. constitutional history and the history of American civil rights/civil liberties.  The Murphy 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:


(1) 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;
(2) hold the Ph.D. in History or a related discipline; and
(3) not yet have published a book-length work in U.S. constitutional history or the history of American civil rights/civil liberties.

Public historians, unaffiliated scholars, as well as faculty at academic institutions are encouraged to apply.  If employed by an institution of higher learning, an applicant must not be tenured at the time of the application.  Applicants should submit a packet containing 4 copies of each of the following items:

(1) a research project description of no more than 1000 words,
(2) a tentative budget of anticipated expenses, and
(3) a current curriculum vitae.

In addition, applicants should request two referees to prepare confidential letters of recommendation.  Applicant packets and letters of recommendation should be mailed to Professor John W. Johnson, Department of History, University of Northern Iowa , Cedar Falls , Iowa 50614-0701 .  All materials must be received no later than April 28, 2006 .  E-mail inquiries should be addressed to <john.johnson@uni.edu>.

In 2005 the Murphy Award was given to Jill Silos for her book-length project “Everybody Get Together: The Politics of the Counterculture” (an historical and legal analysis of the public events involving the1960s counterculture focusing on the political activities of selected groups and movements to exercise First Amendment liberties).

Cromwell Fellowships

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation announces the availability of a number of awards for 2006, 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 two years, three to five awards have been made annually by the trustees of the Foundation, in amounts up to $5,000. Preference will be given to scholars at the early stages of their careers. The Society’s Cromwell Fellowships Advisory Committee reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the Foundation.


Applicants should submit a three to five page description of a proposed project, a budget, a timeline, and two letters of recommendation from academic referees. There is no application form.

Applications must be received no later than June 30, 2006 . Successful applicants will be notified by mid-November, and an announcement of the awards will also be made at the annual meeting of the American Society of Legal History.

To apply, please send all materials to:

Professor Hendrik Hartog
Chair, Cromwell Fellowships Advisory Committee
History Department
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

In 2005, Cromwell fellowships were awarded to:

Ajay K. Mehrotra for his project “Sharing the Burden: Law, Politics and the Making of the Modern American Fiscal State” (a study of the political forces that led to the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment).

Bernie D. Jones for her empirical study exploring “the language of law and the perceptions developed by those contesting the wills of elite white men of the antebellum South who had had natural children by slave women and free women of color.”

Robert F. Castro for his study analyzing federal efforts to free Indian-Mestizo captive servants in New Mexico during the Reconstruction Era, comparing the liberation of these captives with the liberation of slaves in the South.

* 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 monographs.

Cromwell 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, 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 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, or dissertations accepted, in the previous calendar year. It will announce the award at the annual meeting of the Society in the following autumn.

Anyone may nominate works for the prize. The committee will accept nominations from authors, dissertation advisors, or presses. Nominations for this year’s prize 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 July 15, 2006 :

Professor Barbara Y. Welke, Chair
Department of History
University of Minnesota
614 Social Sciences Tower
267 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

Professor Barbara Aronstein Black
George Welwood Murray Professor of Legal History
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th St.
New York, New York 10027-7297

Professor Tony Freyer
University Research Professor of History and Law
306 Law Center
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0382

Professor David T. Konig
Department of History
Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1062
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63130

Professor Charles W. McCurdy
Professor of History and Law
Randall Hall, P.O. Box 400180
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904

Professor Richard Ross
Professor of Law and History
University of Illinois College of Law
504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820

The prize for 2005 was awarded to Professor John Fabian Witt of the Columbia University Law School for his book, T he Accidental Republic . Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law ( Harvard University Press, 2004). The Committee’s citation read: “Witt’s study of the origins of the twentieth century’s workmen’s compensation regime for workplace accidents is superb history by any standard. Its title deftly integrates the notion of industrial accidents with the contingent nature of historical change to give dual meaning to the word “accidental.” As Witt demonstrates in an elegantly written and exhaustively research empirical study, the shape of such a regime was not a foregone outcome of telic inevitability. Rather, it developed along one of many possible paths. As it did, a new regime of risk and insurance supplanted nineteenth-century free-labor ideology. Witt’s book gains force – and what ultimately will be a wide and enthusiastic readership – by its ability to integrate his narrative and analysis within the broader trends in American legal and political history. Not only does it powerfully enhance our understanding of the common law tort regime, but it presents such figures as Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick Jackson Turner, and Frederick Winslow Taylor in a context hitherto unappreciated by historians.”

Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars

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. (There will be a Kathryn T. Preyer Memorial Panel at the meeting; whether both Preyer Scholars present their papers at that panel [or only one] depends on the subject-matter of the winning papers.) 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 being organized by the Society’s Kathryn T. Preyer Memorial Committee. Submissions to the competition are welcome in any of the fields broadly defined as American legal history. Early career scholars who have presented no more than two papers at a national conference are eligible to apply. On the basis of the topics of the papers, the Committee will select one or two more senior scholars to comment.

Applications should be accompanied by completed drafts of the paper and should include a curriculum vitae and complete contact information . 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 is June 15, 2006 . Electronic submissions (preferably in Word) are strongly encouraged and should be sent to each member of the committee: Lyndsay CampbellChristine DesanSarah Barringer GordonMaeva Marcus, and Laura Kalman, Chair.

John Philip Reid Book Award

Named for John Philip Reid, the prolific legal historian and founding member of the Society, and made possible by the generous contributions of his friends and colleagues, this is planned as an annual award for the best book published in English in any of the fields broadly defined as Anglo-American legal history.

This is a new award, and its further definition and the granting of the first award is in the hands of the Society’s John Philip Reid Prize Committee, chaired by:

Professor William E. Nelson
Judge Edward Weinfeld Professor of Law
New York University Law School
40 Washington Square South
New York , NY 10012
nelsonw@juris.law.nyu.edu