2015 Conference

2015: Washington, DC

The ASLH returned to Washington, DC for its 2015 annual meeting, Thursday, October 29, 2015 – Sunday, Nov 1, 2015. The meeting hotel was the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. The program for the meeting was created by the Program Committee, led by co-chairs, Martha Jones (University of Michigan) and Charlotte Walker-Said (CUNY-John Jay College), with the able assistance of committee members Bethany Berger (University of Connecticut), Omar Cheta (Bard College), Malick Ghachem (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), D. Wendy Greene (Samford University), Bruce Hall (Duke University), H. Timothy Lovelace (Indiana University), Beatriz Mamigonian (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina), Sara McDougall (CUNY-John Jay College), Michelle McKinley (University of Oregon), Kristin A. Olbertson (Alma College), Will Smiley (Princeton University), and Nurfadzilah Yahaya (Washington University in St. Louis).

Local arrangements in Washington were in the hardworking hands of Renee Lerner, Chair (George Washington University Law School), Holly Brewer (University of Maryland), Robert Cottrol (George Washington University Law School), Daniel Ernst (Georgetown University Law Center), Anne Fleming (Georgetown University Law Center), Lewis Grossman (American University/Washington College of Law), Daniel Holt (Federal Judicial Center), James Oldham (Georgetown University Law Center), and Scott Pagel (George Washington University Law School). The complete program may be found here: 2015 ASLH Annual Meeting Program

Prior to the start of the regular conference, the Graduate Student Outreach Committee ran its second annual pre-conference research colloquium for eight graduate students from Princeton, Harvard Law School, University of Toronto, University of Michigan, UC-Davis, University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, and UC-Berkeley. Risa Goluboff (U. of Virginia) and Matthew Mirow (Florida International) served as faculty directors. By all reports, this pre-conference was a rousing success and the GSOC is planning to repeat this prior to the 2016 annual meeting.

2015 Kalman Keynote address

Laura Kalman

The conference featured 40 sessions and a plenary address by Honorary Fellow and ASLH Past President Linda Kalman on “The Long Reach of the 1960s: Confirmation Struggles and the Making of the Modern Supreme Court.” Topics of the sessions ranged from the national security state and corporate social responsibility about human rights to pluralism in ancient Athens and Ibero-American legal cultures in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Two roundtables honored the life-work of legal historians Chris Waldrep and Chuck McCurdy; four sessions styled as author-meets-reader invited reflections on violence in Roman Egypt (Ari Bryen), doubt in Islamic law (Intisar Rabb), identity in colonial South Asia (Mitra Sharafi) and the value of legal choice (Cass Sunstein). The opening reception at Georgetown Law Center was a grand affair, but an undoubted highlight for many conference goers was the closing reception on Saturday evening at the United States Supreme Court. Visiting the Supreme Court building sparked a flurry of selfie portraits taken at the opening to the justices’ chamber (in between nibbling food and enjoying conversation with other legal historians).

The annual luncheon on Saturday likewise allowed conference attendees a chance to refuel and reconnect with friends, in between announcements of awards, new developments, and the passing of the society baton from one set of leaders to another. 2015 annual luncheon

2015 annual luncheon 2






At the annual luncheon on Saturday, the ASLH added three Honorary Fellows to its ranks: Dirk Hartog, Diane Kirkby, and John McLaren

2015 Honorary Fellow Hartog

Honorary Fellow Dirk Hartog

2015 Honorary Fellow Kirkby

Honorary Fellow Diane Kirkby (left) receiving congratulations from Past President Constance Backhouse

2015 Honorary Fellow McLaren

Honorary Fellow John McLaren

2015 Klerman presents Sutherland

Tomás Gómez-Arostegui is congratulated by Dan Klerman

2015 Ledford presents Surrency

Ken Ledford presents the Surrency prize

Also at the luncheon, committee chairs presented a number of awards to deserving members in honor of their scholarship. The Sutherland Prize, chaired by Dan Klerman, was awarded to H. Tomás Gómez-Arostegui for his article, “Copyright at Common Law in 1774,” 47 Connecticut Law Review (2014): 1-57.
The Surrency Prize was awarded to Fahad Ahmad Bishara for his article, “Paper Routes: Inscribing Islamic Law across the Nineteenth-Century Western Indian Ocean,” which appeared in Law and History Review 32 (Number 4, 2014): 797-820. Surrency committee chair Ken Ledford read the citation for the prize; Bishara was not present to receive his award.

2015 Ross presents Reid Prize

Richard Ross presents the Reid prize

The John Phillip Reid award went to Max M. Edling’s A Hercules in the Cradle: War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867 (University of Chicago Press, 2014). Richard Ross, committee chair for the Reid prize, read the citation; Edling could not be present to receive his award.

2015 Gordan presents Cromwells

John Gordan III

2015 Ablavsky wins Cromwell article

Greg Ablavsky, winner of the Cromwell article prize

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation supports the field of legal history in numerous ways. It honors the scholarship of deserving articles, books, and dissertations with individual awards. Cromwell Foundation secretary John Gordan III announced these winners and presented the recipients with their certificates.

The Cromwell Dissertation Prize went to Sarah Levine-Gronningsater’s “Delivering Freedom: Gradual Emancipation, Black Legal Culture, and the Origins of Sectional Crisis in New York, 1759-1870”, completed at the University of Chicago. She was unable to attend the meeting.
The Cromwell Article Prize went to Gregory Ablavsky for his essay “The Savage Constitution,” Duke Law Journal, Vol. 63, No. 5 (Feb. 2014): 999-1089.
The Cromwell Book Prize was awarded to John W. Compton for his book The Evangelical Origins of the Living Constitution (Harvard University Press). Professor Compton could not attend the meeting.

2015 Dayton presents Cromwell awards

Cornelia Dayton announces Cromwell awards

In addition to prizes for scholarship completed, the Cromwell Foundation sustains new research by underwriting the scholarly work of younger legal historians completing their first substantive research project (be it dissertation or book). Chair of the ASLH Research Fellowships committee, Cornelia Dayton, described the process of selection and announced the winners.

The Cromwell Foundation’s secretary, John Gordan III, presented certificates and checks to the following individuals:

Brooke Depenbusch (University of Minnesota)

Brooke Depenbusch (University of Minnesota)

Smita Ghosh

Smita Ghosh (University of Pennsylvania)


Jeffrey Thomas Perry (Purdue University)

Jeffrey Thomas Perry (Purdue University)

Amanda Hughett (Duke University)

Amanda Hughett (Duke University)


Evan Taparata (University of Minnesota)

Evan Taparata (University of Minnesota)

Lee Wilson (Clemson University)

Lee Wilson (Clemson University)








Cromwell fellowship winners Alexandra Havrylyshyn (University of California, Berkeley), Mary Mitchell (University of Pennsylvania), and Kathryn Schumaker (University of Oklahoma) could not attend the meeting.

The Cromwell Foundation also presented research grants to Christopher Beauchamp, Deborah Dinner, and Cynthia Nicoletti. Grants also went to Gautham Rao, Michael Schoeppner and Jeff Forret, who could not attend. John Gordan also announced that the Cromwell Foundation intends to begin funding senior scholars in the coming year–details will be announced on the Foundation’s website.

Christopher Beauchamp

Christopher Beauchamp

Deborah Dinner, with John Gordan III

Deborah Dinner, with John Gordan III

Cynthia Nicoletti, with John Gordan III

Cynthia Nicoletti, with John Gordan III

2015 Ermin presents Preyer to Boaz

Preyer Scholar Danielle Boaz with Sam Erman

The Kathryn T. Preyer Memorial panel showcases the finest scholarship by new presenters at the ASLH. The two panelists, Danielle Boaz and Maeve Glass, who appeared on the Preyer panel were recognized for their achievement by Preyer committee member  Sam Erman (University of Southern California):

Erman congratulates Preyer Scholar Maeve Glass

Sam Erman congratulates Preyer Scholar Maeve Glass






The annual luncheon is also a time of transitions. Departing members of the Board of Directors were thanked for their service to the ASLH (Margot Canaday, Reuel Schiller, Mitra Sharafi, David Tanenhaus, Karen Tani), and newly elected Directors were recognized (Malick W. Ghachem, Philip Girard, Sophia Lee, Sara McDougall, Gautham Rao). New members of the Nominating Committee Amalia Kessler and James Q. Whitman replaced outgoing Michael Willrich and Ariela Gross. The new president-elect of the society will be Sarah Barringer Gordon. Mike Grossberg announced that the permanent committee for the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise fund now had a new chair: ASLH Past President Maeva Marcus. The Committee was established by Congress in 1955 to administer the fund bequeathed to the Treasury by Justice Holmes. The fund is to be used for the preparation of a history of the Supreme Court by distinguished scholars and financing annual Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures.

Past President Maeva Marcus named Holmes Devise chair

Past President Maeva Marcus named Holmes Devise chair


The society also recognized the exceptional service of outgoing president Michael Grossberg, who concluded the luncheon by handing the society gavel to incoming president Rebecca Scott.

2015 President Mike Grossberg

2015 President Mike Grossberg (explaining that TSA won’t allow the society gavel in carry-on luggage)

2015 New President Scott

2015 New President Rebecca Scott gets the dangerous gavel