Awards for 2008

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.

This 2008 Surrency Prize was awarded to Hekki Pihlajamaki for his essay, “The Painful Question:  The Fate of Judicial Torture in Early Modern Sweden,” a piece that appeared in the Law and History Review 25:3. The citation read:

“This year’s Surrency Prize Committee quickly came to consensus around Pihlajamaki’s elegant and original article for three reasons. First, it connects debates over torture to developments in criminal procedure and politics. Second, it situates torture among other forms of coercive pressure in the pretrial process and among other forms of punishment. Third, above all, it compares the Swedish case to England and Continental Europe broadly and ambitiously. While the article tells us much about Sweden, it also uses Sweden as a comparison case to reflect on Continental and English historiography on the compelling issue of judicial torture. Sixteenth-century Swedish courts carefully distinguished judicial torture, which meant torture explicitly ordered and supervised by the courts, from hard prison, which consisted of ‘handcuffing and hanging the suspect up on the wall to make him or her confess’ (565). Judicial torture was administered by upper-lever courts staffed by professionals, as opposed to the lower lay courts; it was a judicial ‘fact’ finding method to extract ‘the truth’ (576-77). For this and other reasons, Pihlajamaki argues, judicial torture was never legal in Sweden. Yet some forms of physical coercion were clearly employed against persons suspected of certain crimes or, more likely, of belonging to the political opposition, but this sort of persuasion took place mostly at the highest levels of monarchcal authority. The prohibition of torture towards the end of the seventeenth century, Pihlajamaki notes, required both the creation of ‘other methods of ensuring criminal responsibility’ (586) and the emergence of a state strong enough to regulate and prohibit the practice. As he deftly summarizes, ‘It makes a difference whether torture was large-scale, systematic, and based on legal literature and a common notion of legality, as it was in Germany, France, and the other major ius commune regions of Europe, or whether torture was illegal, unsystematic, and exceptional, as was the case of Sweden and England’ (569). It is no less a part of this author’s accomplishment that he reminds us that torture is ‘a changing, historical category’ (561).”

The selection of the winner of the Surrency Prize for 2009 is under the charge of the Society’s Committee on the Surrency Prize. The membership of that Committee will be announced shortly.

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 2008 was awarded to Professor John Beattie for his article, “Sir John Fielding and Public Justice: The Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, 1754-1780,” which appeared in volume 25 of Law and History Review. The citation read:

“For a number of years, Professor Beattie has been exploring and explaining the makeshift methods for controlling the disorderly street life of London fiom the Restoration onward. His 2001 book, Policing and Punishment in London 1660-1750(Oxford University Press) describes in meticulous detail the efforts of the magistrates, constables, thief-takers, and others to cope with the criminal energies of the expanding metropolis. Against this background, Professor Beattie’s prize-winning article takes us through the inner workings of the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court for the years 1754-1780, under the blind yet watchful eyes of the sitting magistrate, Sir John Fielding. Professor Beattie’s research, with clarity and careful documentation, traces the emergence of the Bow Street Court as a pioneering source of public justice. Unsurprisingly, Fielding’s innovations offended the status quo and resulted in some degree of public criticism and retraction. Professor Beattie demonstrates nonetheless the lasting beneficial effects of Fielding’s accomplishments, in particular his opening of the pre-trial process to public participation.”

The selection of the winner of the Sutherland Prize for 2009 is under the charge of the Society’s Committee on the Sutherland Prize. The chair is James C. Oldham of Georgetown University Law Center, <> The other members of the Committee will be announced shortly.

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 fifth Hurst Summer Institute will be held this summer in Madison, Wisconsin, June 14-27. Details about the program and the selection of the fellows can be found on the Institute’s website. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2009.

Research Awards and Fellowships

Paul L. Murphy Award 

The Murphy Award, named after the distinguished historian of the American constitution who died tragically while he was serving as President of the ASLH, was 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.  The Murphy Award was not made in 2008, both for lack of applicants and for lack of funding. At its meeting in November of 2008, the Board voted to discontinue the award, though it may be possible to continue honoring Paul Murphy in a more informal way.

Cromwell Fellowships

In 2009, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation will make available a number of awards intended to support research and writing in American legal history. (The 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 number of awards to be made in any year, and their amounts, is at the discretion of the Foundation. In the past four years, the trustees of the Foundation have made three to five awards annually, in amounts up to $5,000. Preference will be given to scholars at the early stages of their careers.

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation makes available of a number of fellowship awards intended to support research and writing in American legal history. The number of awards to be made, and their amounts, is at the discretion of the Foundation. In the past four years, the trustees of the Foundation have made three to five awards, 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 2008, Cromwell fellowships were awarded to:

Sophia Lee, who holds a law degree from Yale and is a Ph.D. candidate there as well. She is writing about the continuing interactions of labor politics and civil rights law.

Leah Weinryb Grohsgal, who is working on a Ph.D. at Emory University. She is engaged in a reexamination of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cases of the 1930s and 1940s.

Laura Weinrib holds a law degree from Harvard and is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton. She is completing a dissertation on the emergence of modern understandings of civil liberties in the interwar years.

Application Process for 2009

Michael Grossberg of Indiana University <> is the chair of the Society’s Committee for Research Fellowships and Awards. There is no application form. 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.

Applications must be received no later than July 31, 2009. Successful applicants will be notified after the annual meeting of the Foundation, which normally takes place in the first week of November. An announcement of the awards will also be made at the annual meeting of the American Society of Legal History in Dallas, Texas, November 12-14, 2009.

To apply, please send all materials to:

Professor Michael Grossberg
History Department
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103

Cromwell Prizes

Cromwell Book Prize

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation awards annually a $5000 book 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.”  Doctoral dissertations and articles of comparable aspiration 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.

In 2008 the Cromwell Book Prize was awarded to Christian W. McMillen for Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethnohistory, published in 2007 by the Yale University Press. Professor McMillen’s book also won the Reid Prize. The committee’s citation read as follows:

“McMillen has written a wonderfully detailed account of United States v. Santa Fe Pacific RR Co (1941), the Hualapai land case that Felix Cohen, the key lawyer in the Indian New Deal, called ‘the most complicated case I have ever handled’. McMillen shows how mid-twentieth century land litigation encouraged the articulation of Indian historical accounts and helped create the discipline of ethnohistory. He shows how the demands of litigation channeled and constrained these historical projects and came into conflict with the disciplinary commitments of anthropology. And he shows how Indian activists and their lawyers negotiated these obstacles on the road to victory in the Supreme Court. McMillen’s narrative ranges from local developments in the high desert of Arizona to international contexts that shaped what all the actors did as the case unfolded. He shows how the dispute arose, how litigators drew on legal and anthropological ideas circulating throughout the countries of the former British Empire (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), and how the Hualapai case inspired a transformation in legal thought about indigenous land titles throughout the world. Making Indian Law is the very kind of book-deeply researched, consistently thoughtful, and broadly significant-that the Cromwell Prize was designed to reward.”

Cromwell Dissertation/Article Prize

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation has generously agreed to fund a prize of $2500 for dissertations accepted in the previous calendar year or for articles of comparable aspiration published in the previous calendar 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.  The Foundation awards the prize on the recommendation of the Cromwell Prize Advisory Committee of the American Society for Legal History.  The Society will announce the award after the annual meeting of the Cromwell Foundation, which normally takes place in the first week of November.

The Cromwell Dissertation Prize for 2008 was awarded to Diana Irene Williams for her dissertation “They Call It Marriage”: the Louisiana Interracial Family and the Making of American Legitimacy——a dissertation submitted for the Ph.D. at Harvard University in 2007. The Committee’s citation read as follows:

“This fine dissertation traces changes in the regulation of marriage, cohabitation, and inheritance from before the Louisiana Purchase through Reconstruction. Drawing on a rich array of political, ecclesiastical, and literary sources, Williams shows how black women and white men, whose relationships were both outside the law and subjected to constant scrutiny, went to great lengths to attain, preserve, and escape marriage to each other. She situates these struggles on the contested ground of whether American society was to be organized along lines of status or contract. She highlights the gendered role of marriage law in governing property titles, social status, and citizenship. And she shows how efforts to create strict racial categories within family law ran into one difficulty after another in the South’s most diverse state. Williams has made a substantial contribution to the literature on race and family law, and the changing relationship between them, in nineteenth-century America. We are impressed by her achievement.”

Nomination Process for 2009

The chair of this year’s Cromwell Prize Advisory Committee is Richard Ross of the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) <>. 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, 2009:

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

Professor Holly Brewer
History Department, Campus Box 8108
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-8108

Professor Tony Freyer
University of Alabama School of Law
101 Paul Bryant Drive, East
Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0382

Professor Risa Goluboff
237 Thompson St., Apt. 8C
New York, NY 10012

Professor Philip Hamburger
Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street
New York, New York 10027-7297

Professor Gerard Magliocca
Indiana University School of Law–Indianapolis
Lawrence W. Inlow Hall
530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3225

Professor Christian McMillen
Department of History
Randall Hall
PO Box 400180
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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.

In 2008, the Preyer Memorial Committee chose two Preyer Scholars: Cynthia Nicoletti (University of Virginia), for her paper “The American Civil War as a Trial by Battle,” and Joshua Stein (UCLA), for his paper “A Right to Violence: The Meaning of ‘Public’ in Nineteenth-Century American Law Treatises and the Jurisprudence of Violence.” The Preyer Scholars presented their papers at a special panel at the annual meeting, chaired by Laura Kalman, with Michael Grossberg (University of Indiana) and Ariela Gross (University of Southern California) serving as commentators.

Application Process for 2009

David T. Konig of Washington University in St. Louis <> chairs the Preyer Committee for 2009. Information about this year’s competition may be found with the call for papers for the Dallas meeting.

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.

In 2008 the Reid Prize was awarded to Christian W. McMillen of the University of Virginia for Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethnohistory. As noted above, this book also won the Cromwell Book Prize. For a first book to win the Reid Prize is quite remarkable. The committee’s citation read:

“Christian W. McMillen’s Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethnohistory is a deeply researched and elegantly written study of the Hualapai case and its background.

“In 1941, after decades of strugglmg to hold on to the remainder of their aboriginal home, the Hualapai Indians finally took their case to the Supreme Court—and won. The Hualapai case was the culminating event in a legal and intellectual revolution that transformed Indian law and ushered in a new way of writing Indian history that provided legal grounds for native land claims. But Making Indian Law is about more than a legal decision. It is the story of Hualapai activists, and eventually sympathetic lawyers, who challenged both the Santa Fe Railroad and the U.S. government to a courtroom showdown over the meaning of Indian property rights—and the Indian past. At the heart of the Hualapai campaign to save the reservation was documenting the history of Hualapai land use. Making Indian Law showcases the central role that the Hualapai and their lawyers played formulating new understandings of native people, their property, and their past. It not only shows how contestants reshape historical nanatives in the courtroom, but how history itself is constructed and reconstructed to reflect new understandings and new needs, without losing its essential truth.

“To this day, the impact of the Hualapai decision is felt wherever and whenever indigenous land claims are litigated throughout the world. The Hualapai case transformed federal law addressing Native American issues. Making Indian Lawsimilarly transforms our historical understanding of that transformation.”

Nomination Process for 2009

For the 2009 prize, the Committee will accept nominations from authors, presses, or anyone else, of any book that bears a copyright date in 2008. Nominations for this year’s prize should include a curriculum vitae of the author. Nominations should be submitted by May 29, 2009 to:

Professor Gerald Leonard
Chair, ASLH Committee on the Reid Prize
Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215

Copies of the book should be mailed to the chair (above) and to each member of the committee:

Professor Michael Les Benedict
Ohio State University
106 Dulles
230 West 17th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210

Professor Susanna Blumenthal
University of Minnesota Law School
229 19th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

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

Professor Reva Siegel
Yale Law School
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520