Awards for 2007

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 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 nineteenth-century law.”

“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 legal consciousness.”

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 <>
Michael Grossberg, Indiana University <>
Edward A. Purcell, Jr., New York Law School <>
Richard Ross (2006), University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) <>, <>

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 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 <>
Joseph Biancalana (2006), University of Cincinnati <>
David Sugarman (2007), Lancaster University (UK) <>


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 <>
Edward Balleisen (2008), Duke University <>
Lawrence Friedman (2007), Stanford University <>
Robert W. Gordon (2007), Yale University <>
Hendrik Hartog (2006), Princeton University <>
Laura Kalman (2008), University of California, Santa Barbara <>
Jonathan Lurie (2006), Rutgers Newark <>
Arthur J. McEvoy (2008), University of Wisconsin (Madison) <>
Aviam Soifer (2007), University of Hawaii, <>
Barbara Welke (ex officio) (Hurst Institute Leader), University of Minnesota <>

Paul L. Murphy Award

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, or be a candidate for, 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, and, if employed by an institution of higher learning, not yet be tenured.

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.”

Cromwell Fellowships

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

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.

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 Prizes

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 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. 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 Doctrinepublished 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.

Cromwell Dissertation Prize

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 read:

“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.”

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 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 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 <>
Lyndsay Campbell, University of California, Berkeley <>
Christine Desan, Harvard University <>
Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania <>
David Konig, Washington University in St. Louis <>.

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 <>, and she will forward them to the other members of the Committee.


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 the previous year 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 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 debt.”

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
604 822-5607

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
106 Dulles
230 West 17th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210

Professor Christian G. Fritz
University of New Mexico, School of Law
1117 Stanford Drive, N.E.
MSC11 6070
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Professor Richard Helmholz
University of Chicago, School of Law
1111 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637