Four Seasons Hotel

The ASLH traveled to the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis for its annual meeting on November 8–11. Over 300 people registered for the meeting. The hotel, a quite spectacular affair, sits atop the St. Louis casino. The private rooms, your webmaster was told, were comfortable, even luxurious. Your webmaster, however, was not able to get in and stayed across the street instead. We shared the city with some 35,000 people who were attending the 104th annual convocation of the Church of God in Christ. The Church has a largely African-American membership, most of whom were dressed in their Sunday best. We were not. The contrast was quite startling.

The full program (PDF) of the meeting is available online.  Most of the abstracts of the papers given at the conference appear here, a substitute for the summaries of the sessions that used to appear in the Newsletter, late and incomplete.

Opening Reception

The opening reception was held in the Eagleton Courthouse. It was sponsored by the Historical Society of the United States Courts in the Eighth Circuit and honored Senior Circuit Judge Morris Sheppard. When he was known as ‘Buzz’ Arnold, he was president of the Society, and the Law and History Review was founded during his tenure as president. He is an honorary fellow of the Society.

Judge and Mrs. Arnold are pictured on your right. Send an email message to webmaster@aslh.net if you can identify any of the people in the background.

  Opening Reception
Plenary Address  

Plenary Address and Reception

The plenary address was held at the Washington University in St. Louis Law School. R. H. Helmholz, the Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago spoke on “Five Half-Truths about Natural Law in European and American Legal History.” The address was followed by a splendid reception sponsored by the Washington University Law School.

Dick Helmholz is pictured at your left with a look that every teacher knows: “Listen up, because if you don’t get this, nothing else is going to make sense.”

Everyone had such a good time at the reception that no one took any pictures.


Annual Lunch

The annual lunch was held in the ball room of the Four Seasons Hotel. The annual lunch is, after all, a lunch. Pictured below on the left is a tablefull of zippy young scholars. Starting on the far right is Kristin Olbertson, to her right (back to us) is Jolanta Komornicka, to her right Elizabeth Kamali, and to her right (facing us) Jesse Carr. Send an email to webmaster@aslh.net if you can identify any of the others. Pictured below on the right is David Seipp expounding on the fine points of medieval English legal history while Janet Loengard's soup gets cold and Valerie Horowitz is out of focus and partially blocked.

Kamali_Olbertson_Komornicka   Seipp_Loengard

In the meantime the president and treasurer were trying to figure out what to do next.

Constance Backhouse

It was pretty obvious: ask three people who were key in making it all happen to stand up and take a bow. Pictured below, starting on the left, are David Konig, chair of the Local Arrangements Committee, and Adriaan Lanni and Michael Willrich, co-chairs of the Program Committee.

Constance Backhouse

Prizes and Awards

The president then announced the following prizes and awards (full descriptions of the prizes and citations, including the names of those who got honorable mention, are posted on the awards page):

Cromwell Fellows  

William Nelson Cromwell Research Fellowships were awarded to:

James Allison, who received his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a Ph.D. Candidate, History at the University of Virginia, for his project entitled: “Sovereignty and Survival: American Energy Development and Indian Self-Determination”

Anne Fleming, who received her J.D. from Harvard University and is a Ph.D. Candidate in history the University of Pennsylvania, for her project entitled: “City of Debtors: Law, Loan Sharks, and the Shadow Economy of Urban Poverty, 1900–1970”;

Hidetaka Hirota, who has completed his Ph.D. at Boston College and is a Postdoctoral Fellow in history there, for his project entitled: “Don’t Give Me Your Huddled Masses: Pauper Deportation and the Origins of American Immigration Policy”;

Ryan Johnson, who is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Minnesota, for his project entitled: “Enemies of the State: Knowing, Producing, and Policing Anarchism in the Making of the American National Security State, 1901–1921; and

Suzanne Kahn, who is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Columbia University, for her project entitled: “Divorce and the Politics of the Social Welfare Regime, 1969–2001.”

Pictured at the left is John Gordan giving Anne Fleming her certificate on behalf of the Cromwell Foundation, while the president looks on. For the others the check is in the mail.


Paul L. Murphy Award

At its meeting in Atlanta in 2011, the board of the Society voted to devote money that had been raised as a memorial to Paul L. Murphy to offering two one-time awards of $5,000 to support the completion of books on civil liberties of any sort in any period of American history. The responsibility for making the awards was delegated to the Committee on the Paul L. Murphy Awards. This year the Committee made one of these awards to Sam Lebovic who received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago and is currently a fellow at the Center for Cultural Analysis, Rutgers University, for his book project Beyond the First Amendment: The Problem of Press Freedom in the American Century.

Pictured below is Sam Lebovic receiving the award from the president.

Constance Backhouse

This year’s Preyer Memorial Committee chose two Preyer Scholars:

Sarah Levine-Gronnigsatar (University of Chicago) for her paper “Poor Law, Slave Law, God’s Law: Quaker Antislavery and the Early Modern Origins of New York’s Gradual Emancipation”; and

Taisu Zhang (Yale University) for his paper “Kinship Networks, Social Status and the Creation of Property Rights in Early Modern China and England.”

The Preyer Scholars presented their papers at a special panel at the annual meeting, chaired by Gautham Rao (American University) with William Wiecek (Syracuse University) and James Oldham (Georgetown University) serving as commentators.

Pictured below are Sarah Levine-Gronnigsatar and Taisu Zhang receiving their certificates from the president.

Kamali_Olbertson_Komornicka   Seipp_Loengard

Cromwell Article Prize

The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation awarded its Article Prize to David Freeman Engstrom of Stanford University for his article “The Lost Origins of American Fair Employment Law: Regulatory Choice and the Making of Modern Civil Rights, 1943-1972,” which appeared in volume 63 of the Stanford Law Review in 2011. Prof. Engstrom was not able to come to the meeting, so we did not get his picture, but in the digital age, you can't escape. He's pictured on the right, even if we had to include an ad for the Stanford Law School


Preyer Scholars
Cromwell Dissertation Prize  

The William Nelson Cromwell Dissertation Prize for 2012 was awarded to Laura Weinrib for “The Liberal Compromise: Civil Liberties, Labor, and the Limits of State Power, 1917-1940”—a dissertation submitted for the Ph.D. degree in history at Princeton University in 2011. .

John Gordan, Laura Weinrib, and the president are pictured at the left.


The William Nelson Cromwell Book Prize for 2012 was awarded to Daniel J. Sharfstein of Vanderbilt University for The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White, published by Penguin Press in 2011.

John Gordan, Daniel Sharfstein and the president are pictured at the right.

  Cromwell Book Prize
Surrency Prize  

This year‘s Surrency Prize was awarded to Rebecca J. Scott of the University of Michigan for her essay, “Paper Thin: Freedom and Re-enslavement in the Diaspora of the Haitian Revolution,” which appeared  in  Law and History Review, Volume 29, Number 4, pages 1061–87.

Rebecca Scott and the president are pictured at the left.


This year’s Sutherland Prize was awarded to awarded to James Oldham of Georgetown University for "Informal Lawmaking in England by the Twelve Judges in the late 18th and early 19th centuries," which appeared  in  Law and History Review, Volume 29, Number 1, pages 181–220.

Jim Oldham is pictured at the right with the president.


  Sutherland Prize
Reid Prize  

The John Phillip Reid Award for the best book in legal history published in English during the previous the calendar year was awarded to was awarded to Tomiko Brown-Nagin of Harvard University for Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights, published by the Oxford University Press in 2011.

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is pictured at the left with the president. The color-coordination of the president’s shirt and Tomiko's blouse was probably not planned.


Honorary Fellows

This year John Beattie of the University of Toronto (Canada), Linda Kerber of the University of Iowa, and Bruce Kercher of Macquarie University (Australia) were elected Honorary Fellows of the Society. Jim Phillips of the University of Toronto read the citation of the Committee on Honors for Beattie; Constance Backhouse of the University of Ottawa (Canada), the citation for Kerber; and Chris Tomlins of the University of California, Irvine, the citation for Kercher. The Society maintains an 'honor roll' of its fellows. The new honors page on the website is the beginning of that roll. The page will contain the citations that were read at the meeting as soon as your webmaster can get those who read them to send them in.

Pictured below on the left is John Beattie graciously accepting award while Jim Phillips looks cautiously into the middle distance. Pictured below on the right is Linda Kerber accepting the award from the president.

Honorary Fellow   Cromwell Book Prize

We didn’t do so well with Bruce Kercher. We got a great shot of Chris Tomlins reading the citation (below left), but for Kercher himself we had to go online for a somewhat pixilated image (below right).

Honorary Fellow   Cromwell Book Prize

The Craig Joyce Medal

The Society is run entirely by volunteers. We have no paid employees. Each year over a hundred names are listed on the Society's list of officers, directors and committee members. Some of these tasks are quite onerous, and the Society could not operate without the willing cooperation of many of its members. A few people contribute their time to the Society over many years in ways that are above and beyond the call of duty, even in an organization whose members have a strong sense of duty. At its meeting in Atlanta the board voted to create a medal, to be given every two or three years, to acknowledge extraordinary volunteer contributions to the Society. Quite fittingly, they voted to name the medal after Craig Joyce, and, equally fittingly, they voted to name Craig Joyce its first recipient.

At the meeting in St. Louis the board voted to break the every-two-to-three-year cycle and to award the medal to Chris Waldrep. The Society honored Chris with this award because of his long and diverse service to the Society, but most of all for his pivotal role in the founding and guidance of H-LAW, the list-serv co-sponsored by the ASLH and H-NET (Humanities and Social Sciences Network Online). Under Chris’s sage and steady leadership, H-LAW has become an indispensable resource for the legal-history community. Unfortunately, Chris was too ill to come to the meeting. Chuck Zelden, the first book-review editor of H-LAW and now its head moderator, accepted the medal for Chris.

Pictured below is Chuck accepting the medal from the president.

Cromwell Book Prize


Closing Reception

The closing reception was held in the anteroom of the ballroom. If you have money left over in your food and beverage minimum, a five-star hotel can put on a pretty good spread, and they did.

In the image on your right, Paul Finkelman, in the lower left is talking animatedly and almost completely blocking Barbara Black. In the center Chuck Zelden is talking to the back of Dan Ernst’s head. To the left of Dan’s elbow (and almost totally obscured in darkness) is Linda Kerber. Send an email message to webmaster@aslh.net if you can identify any of the others.

  Closing Reception
Plenary Address  

Farewell to St. Louis

The terrace in front of the room where we had our breakfasts, coffee breaks, and closing reception offered a great view of the arch and of Ole Man River.

If anyone can identify the elegant figure contemplating the river send an email message to webmaster@aslh.net. We think it may be Malik Ghachem, but we could be wrong.


Erwin Surrency, R.I.P.

We were saddened to learn that Erwin Surrency, a founding member of the Society and for many years the editor of its publication the American Journal of Legal History, died at the age of 88 on the very first day of the annual meeting. The Society’s Surrency Prize is named after him. Your webmaster remembers him well. He edited the first serious article in legal history that your webmaster wrote. Erwin was a gentle editor. He let a young guy who thought he knew what he was doing more than he did do his own thing. Erwin did, however, correct some elaborate and seriously mistaken instructions to the printer, which, if followed, would have resulted in a total disaster. A moving obituary, which outlines his many accomplishments, may be found elsewhere.

Results of Elections

Margot Canaday of Princeton University, Reuel Schiller of the University of California (Hastings), Mitra Sharafi of the University of Wisconsin, David Tanenhaus of the University of Nevada (Las Vegas), and Karen Tani of the University of California (Berkeley) were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors. They replace Mary Sarah Bilder of Boston College, Holly Brewer of the University of Maryland, Risa L. Goluboff of the University of Virginia, Dylan C. Penningroth of Northwestern University, and Victoria Saker Woeste of the American Bar Foundation, whose terms have expired. Our thanks are owing to the outgoing members of the board for their years of faithful service, and congratulations to the new members!

Ariela Gross of the University of Southern California and Michael Willrich of Brandeis University were elected to three-year terms on the Nominating Committee. They replace Sarah Barringer Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania and David Thomas Konig of Washington University in St. Louis whose terms have expired. Once more, our thanks are owing to the outgoing members of the committee for their years of faithful service, and congratulations to the new members!

A complete list of the Officers and Directors for 2013 and of those committee members who have already been chosen for 2013 are posted on the officers page. That page will be updated as additional committee members are appointed.


If your thirst for knowledge of the Society’s affairs has not been slaked, you may peruse the 85 pages of committee reports that were submitted to the board at its annual meeting and follow the ins and outs of the Society’s finances (which seem to be in quite good shape) by checking out the annual report page.

Next Year: South Florida

The Program Committee for the South Florida meeting (Miami/Fort Lauderdale, November 7–10) has been formed.  The call for papers (and other information about the meeting) are posted on the conferences page.


We had a professional photographer this year for the annual lunch. It shows. Your webmaster would like to thank Carol F. Lee and Craig Joyce, who took the pictures displayed here for events other than the annual lunch, and a couple of those for the annual lunch. Your webmaster would appreciate it if others would continue to take pictures even if a professional photographer is engaged. Bad light, energetic people, and the fact that the events move really quickly combine to make taking pictures at the annual meeting a really hit-or-miss operation.

URL: http://www.h-net.org /old/conferences/aslh__conference_2012.shtml
last modified:  01/30/13