Awards for 2006

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 Surrency Prize for 2006 was awarded to Andrea McKenzie of the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) for “‘This Death Some Strong and Stout Hearted Man Doth Choose’: The Practice of Peine Forte et Dure in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century England” in LHR 23:2.

The citation read as follows: “Most historical accounts of punishment focus on those doing the punishing: the state and its agents.  In this insightful and original article, Andrea McKenzie examines the meaning of the choices made by those enduring punishment. This account of the use of peine forte et dure in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England argues that courts interpreted the refusal of criminal defendants to answer charges against them as an attack on their own authority and legitimacy. Often, in fact, some defendants intended exactly that. In capital felony cases, judges subjected the uncooperative accused to the peine forte, the most gruesome method of physical torture at their disposal. Famously employed against an accused wizard in late seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts, the peine forte usually killed slowly and horribly. Those subjected to it either bore their fate stoically or quickly changed their minds and agreed to plead. McKenzies account emphasizes the nature of legal and judicial authority and, just as important, the motives of those who willingly chose the peine forte, knowing it probably meant death. For some, the chance to invert the inherent power structure of the criminal process was the opportunity to assert the ultimate moral authority in society. Moreover, the display of manly courage and resolve in the face of torture could be read as a rejection of the deferential, passive role thrust upon [such offenders] by the courts. McKenzie employs an expressive literary style, in keeping with the pathos of her sources, while unsentimentally exposing the power of the judicial process in the lives of ordinary people. This piece contributes fresh insights to the history of capital punishment, the meaning of pain and suffering, the interweaving of legal authority and religious faith, and the representation of masculinity in the early modern period. Its skilful blending of cultural and legal history provides a model for many other areas of inquiry.”

The Committee also awarded an honorable mention to Sally H. Clarke for “Unmanageable Risks: MacPherson v. Buick and the Emergence of a Mass Consumer Market” in LHR 23:1.

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 2006 was awarded to Andrea McKenzie of the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) for “‘This Death Some Strong and Stout Hearted Man Doth Choose’: The Practice of Peine Forte et Dure in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century England” in LHR 23:2. (This was the first time in the history of these awards that the Surrency Prize and the Sutherland Prize were awarded to the same person for the same article.) The citation read as follows: “McKenzie’s winning article is distinguished by both its chronological range and its analytical reach. The practice of the peine, the pressing to death with heavy weights of those accused criminals who impeded the normal course of justice by refusing to plead to their indictments, stands as an anomaly both in the English legal tradition and in English legal historiography. At odds alike with the English law’s much-celebrated opposition to judicial torture and to its vaunted reliance on jury trials to determine guilt and innocence, the peine has hitherto puzzled legal historians, who have conventionally attributed defendants’ willingness to subject themselves to this horrific ordeal to the desire to transmit estates to heirs by avoiding criminal conviction. McKenzie’s article not only exposes the limits of this received interpretation but also provides a convincing series of alternative explanations. Her interpretation illuminates the history of the peine by situating legal practice within the context of the counter-theatre of the law as well as a spectrum of popular attitudes and discourses that range from religious conceptions of the martyr to plebeian conceptions of masculinity. The result is a compelling analysis that weaves together first-rate legal, social and cultural history to provide a compelling resolution to the conundrum of why early modern men and women chose to subject themselves to death by pressing rather than appealing to the celebrated mercies of the English jury system.”

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.

The fourth Hurst Summer Institute will be held this summer in Madison, Wisconsin, with tentative dates from June 10 through June 22. Applications are being accepted through January 15, 2007. Barbara Welke, Associate Professor in History and Law at the University of Minnesota and an active member of the Society, will lead the Institute. Guest scholars will include Lawrence Friedman, Dirk Hartog, Holly Brewer, and Margot Canaday. The two week program is structured but informal, and features discussions of core readings in legal history and analysis of the work of the participants in the Institute. The Hurst Memorial Committee of the Society is charged with the responsiblity of selecting up to twelve fellows to participate in the Institute. Further information and an application form is available at:

Cromwell Fellowships

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation announces the availability of a number of fellowships for 2007, 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. Details about the application process will be available on this site shortly.

In 2006, Cromwell fellowships were awarded to:

Christopher Beauchamp, Ph.D., University of Cambridge (UK), to begin postdoctoral research in turning his dissertation on patent litigation in the late nineteenth century into a book.
Kenneth W. Mack, J.D. Harvard Law School, Ph. D. Princeton University, a member of the Harvard Law School faculty, for archival research in connection with completing his book on African-American lawyers and their legal practice during the first half of the twentieth century.
Kunal Parker, J.D. Harvard Law School, Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University, a member of the faculty of the Cleveland-Marshall School of law and a Golieb Fellow, New York University Law School, for support for his dissertation research on changing understandings of history and of custom in nineteenth century legal thought.
Nicholas Parrillo, a J.D./Ph.D candidate at the Yale Law School and a Golieb Fellow, New York University Law School, to continue his doctoral dissertation research on the legal history of governmental salaries and pay.
Daniel J. Sharfstein, J.D., Yale Law School and Golieb Fellow, New York University Law School, for archival research in connection with his book-length study of families whose racial identities shifted from African American to white from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

* 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, 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,” but substantial articles (such as sometimes appear in law reviews) are also eligible. This year doctoral dissertations (and student-written articles) have their own separate competition.

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. Details about this year’s award process will be available on this site shortly.

The prize for 2006 was awarded to Professor Holly Brewer of North Carolina State University for her book, By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture by University of North Carolina Press). The Committee’s citation read: “Brewer’s study places children and childhood at the center of a fundamental shift in the meaning of consent in seventeenth and eighteenth century Anglo-America. In taking seriously evidence from sixteenth century England that other scholars have ignored, seen as anomalous, or mistaken and then scrupulously following the changing evidence relating to children’s consent in a whole range of relationships vis-à-vis church, God, nation and relations with others, including baptism, allegiance, military service, jury service, testimony, transfers of property, labor contracts, and marriage through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Brewer captures the shift from status (birth) to reason as the foundation of consent. In doing so, she breathes a new and deeper meaning into the fundamental social, cultural, and political transformation captured by well-worn phrases such as “from status to contract” and “the age of reason” and highlights the religious roots of this transformation that begins with the Reformation and sees its full flowering in the political ferment of the American Revolution. This is a book about the legal creation of modern childhood as much as a book about how the child became a metaphor in eighteenth century political theory for those without the capacity to reason. Brewer thus captures how in a moment in which the consent of the people became the foundation for political authority, children in fact lost both personal and political power. And in turn, she highlights the power of children as an example that could be and was applied to exclude others, including women and African Americans, on the grounds that they too lacked the capacity to reason required in a government based on reasoned consent. Brewer weaves her powerful argument with grace and erudition, taking her reader from the Reformation through the American Revolution, crafting an Anglo-American legal history and drawing with equal facility on religious texts, political theory, legal treatises, and legal cases.”

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. (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 site shortly.

The first two Preyer Scholars were chosen this year. They are Sophia Z. Lee, a J.D./Ph.D. student at Yale University, for her paper, “Hotspots in a Cold War: The NAACP’s Postwar Labor Constitutionalism, 1948-1964” and Karen M. Tani, a J.D./Ph.D. student at the University for Pennsylvania, for her paper, “Fleming v. Nestor: Anticommunism, The Welfare State and the Making of ‘New Property.'” The first Preyer Panel featured the work of both. The panel was well-attended. The Society’s president was in the chair. Comments were provided by Dan Ernst and Laura Kalman.

John Phillip Reid Book Award

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 any of the fields broadly defined as Anglo-American legal history.

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 was awarded to Daniel J. Hulsebosch, for Constituting Empire: New York and the Transformation of Constitutionalism in the Atlantic World, 1664-1830 (University of North Carolina Press). The Committee’s citation read: “Daniel Hulsebosch’s book offers a sweeping reinterpretation of early American constitutional history that takes the reader from the imperial constitution of Lord Coke to the constitutional imperialism of Chancellor Kent. The heart of the analysis reassesses the meaning of the American Revolution as a constitutional event. Bringing original sources to light, using canonical sources in new ways, and building on the work of John Reid that has forced historians to take the legal grievances of the eighteenth century seriously, Hulsebosch demonstrates that the state and federal constitutions were shaped by North America’s imperial past. He shows how the raw material of the English constitution got remade by colonists and imperial agents on the ground, as well as by the British American lawyers who are now called Founding Fathers. He also illuminates the process by which legal practices were abstracted into formal ideas and how this formalization was a means to an end: first to unite a transatlantic empire, then to forge a more perfect Union. Constituting Empire does not pretend to have the last word on the American founding. But it may well have pioneered a new line of scholarship exploring the social politics of constitutionalism.”

The Committee also announced that Stuart Banner was the runner-up for the prize forHow the Indians Lost their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier (Harvard University Press).

Paul L. Murphy Award

The Paul L. Murphy Award was not made in 2006. Further definition of the award is in the hands of the Society’s Paul L. Murphy Award Committee. Details about this year’s award process will be available on this site shortly.