Focus on Societies

American Society for Legal History

The American Society for Legal History (ASLH) was founded in 1956 to foster interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in the broad field of legal history.  Although based in the United States, its purview and membership are international in scope. The ASLH has an extensive publication program.  

The society sponsors a quarterly journal (Law and History Review), a book series (Studies in Legal History) and an online discussion network (H-Law). Law and History Review and Studies in Legal History are published for the society by Cambridge University Press. Law and History Review is internationally recognized as the leading journal in the field of legal history and is sold extensively around the world. Studies in Legal History publishes the highest quality work in legal history by both junior and senior scholars, and is dedicated to the understanding of law as both a product of and contributor to history. H-Law is hosted through H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online), and promotes the discussion of issues relating to teaching and research in the history of all legal traditions, whether common law, civil law, or other legal systems.

The society holds its annual meeting each fall. The meeting is an opportunity for historians, law professors, graduate students, lawyers, and judges from around the world to gather and meet fellow travelers and to present and discuss their scholarship.  To foster international scholarly collaboration, panel swaps have been engaged in with the Australia and New Zealand Law and History Society, the Israeli History and Law Association and the European Society for Comparative Legal History.

At the meeting, the society confers a number of prizes and research fellowships to recognize the best recent scholarship in the field and to encourage promising younger scholars.  Another feature of the meeting is the result of a symbiotic relationship between the ASLH and the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, which 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, and awards fellowships in cooperation with the American Society for Legal History at the society's annual meeting intended to support research and writing in American legal history.

The J. Willard Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History is a biennial event sponsored by the Institute for Legal Studies in conjunction with the American Society for Legal History. It is a two- week long residential workshop designed to cultivate junior scholars in the field of legal history. Each Hurst Institute is organized and chaired by a well-known legal historian and includes visiting senior scholars who lead specialized sessions. For each institute, a committee appointed by the ASLH reviews applications from beginning faculty members, doctoral students with completed or almost completed dissertations, and recent JD graduates, and selects 12 junior scholars from around the world as Institute Fellows. The fellows come to the University of Wisconsin Law School for two weeks to participate in seminars, meet other legal historians, and discuss their own work. The 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.

Named after the late Kathryn T. Preyer, a distinguished historian of the law of early America known for her generosity to early career 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 early career legal historians designated Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars present what are normally their first papers to the society. The generosity of Professor Preyer's friends and family have enabled the society to offer honorarium to the Preyer Scholars and to reimburse, in some measure or entirely, their costs of attending the meeting.

The Johnson Program for First Book Authors provides advice and support to scholars working toward the publication of first books in legal history, broadly defined. In conversation with peers and with the advice of senior scholars, participants develop and revise book proposals and sample chapters, and meet with guest editors to learn about approaching and working with publishers.

The American Society for Legal History exists to encourage new initiatives in the study, presentation, and production of legal historical scholarship and in the communication of legal history to all its possible publics and audiences. Accordingly, the ASLH awards grants typically in the $4,000 to $6,000 range to institutions, organizations and groups of scholars. It does not support individual research projects. A Call for Proposals is issued yearly.

For more information on the American Society for Legal History, visit their website at www.aslh.net.