Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-xfwgj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-23T02:47:32.291Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Introducing Applied Legal History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2013


James Oldham and Su Jin Kim write about the acceptance of arbitration in the early United States in their article, “Arbitration in America: The Early History.” They correct a misperception that stretches back at least to Justice Joseph Story's 1844 opinion in Tobey v. Bristol that said equity did not enforce arbitration awards. Oldham and Kim recover a robust culture of arbitration in the early United States and thus correct the received wisdom, which led Justice Kennedy to remark in 2001 that American courts were historically hostile to arbitration. Perhaps this newly recovered history will add support for the acceptance of arbitration in the federal courts. Oldham's and Kim's article is, therefore, part of an emerging and sometimes controversial trend in legal history to speak to contemporary issues. It is also the first of an occasional series for Law and History Review on “applied legal history.”

Applied Legal History
Copyright © the American Society for Legal History, Inc. 2013

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1. Oldham, James & Kim, Su Jin, “Arbitration in America: The Early History,” Law and History Review 31 (2013): __CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

2. Tobey v. Bristol 23 F.Cas. 1313, 1320 (C.C. Mass. 1845).

3. See Circuit City Stores v. Saint Clair Adams, 532 U.S. 105, 111 (2001).

4. See, generally, Kalman, Laura, The Strange Career of Legal Liberalism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996)Google Scholar (discussing the turn to history in law, in part as a response to the decline of other sources of authority).

5. Cornell, Saul, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Konig, David Thomas, “Why the Second Amendment Has a Preamble: Original Public Meaning and the Political Culture of Written Constitutions in Revolutionary America,” UCLA Law Review 56 (2009): 12951342Google Scholar.

6. Flaherty, Martin, “History ‘Lite’ in Modern American Constitutionalism,” Columbia Law Review 95 (1995): 523–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cornell, Saul, “Heller, New Originalism, and Law Office History: ‘Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss,’” UCLA Law Review 56 (2009): 1095–126Google Scholar; Rabban, David M., “The Ahistorical Historian: Leonard Levy on Freedom of Expression in Early American History,” Stanford Law Review 37 (1985): 795856CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7. See, for example, Kozuskanich, Nathan, “Originalism, History, and the Second Amendment: What Did Bearing Arms Really Mean to the Founders?” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 10 (2008): 413–46Google Scholar.

8. Halliday, Paul D. and White, G. Edward, “The Suspension Clause: English Text, Imperial Contexts, and American Implications,” Virginia Law Review 94 (2008): 575714Google Scholar.

9. Boumediene v. Bush 553 U.S. 723, 740, 747, 751 (2008).

10. Brief of Professors of History George Chauncey et al. as Amicus Curiae, Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) (visited December 15, 2012)

11. See Mortenson, Julian Davis, “Executive Power and the Discipline of History,” University of Chicago Law Review 78 (2011): 377443Google Scholar (exploring examples of Yoo's use of early American history).

12. See, for example, Siegel, Reva, “She the People: The Nineteenth Amendment, Sex Equality, Federalism, and the Family,” Harvard Law Review 115 (2002): 9471046CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13. See, for example, Kaczorowski, Robert J., “The Enforcement Provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866: A Legislative History in Light of Runyon v. McCrary,” Yale Law Journal 98 (1989): 565–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

14. See, for example, Franklin, Cary, “Inventing the ‘Traditional Concept’ of Sex Discrimination,” Harvard Law Review 125 (2012): 1307–80Google Scholar.

15. Vann Woodward, C., The Strange Career of Jim Crow xvi (New York: Oxford University Press, 1955, reissued 2002)Google Scholar.

16. Kramer, Larry D., The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)Google Scholar; and Siegel, Reva, “Dead or Alive: Originalism as Popular Constitutionalism in Heller, Harvard Law Review 122 (2008): 191245Google Scholar. Although some question the relevance of popular constitutionalism to contemporary law, Siegel's article on Heller shows popular action in practice and, importantly, that it is not the domain of one political viewpoint.

17. Goluboff, Risa L., The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007)Google Scholar.

18. See, for example, Novak, William J., The People's Welfare Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)Google Scholar; and Alexander, Gregory, Commodity and Propriety: Competing Visions of Property in American Legal Thought, 1776-1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998)Google Scholar.

19. Posner, Richard A., “A Theory of Negligence,” Journal of Legal Studies 1 (1972): 2996CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20. Horwitz, Morton J., The Transformation of American Law, 1780–1860 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977)Google Scholar.

21. See Martinez, Jenny S., The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Ludington, Sarah, Gulati, Mitu, and Brophy, Alfred, “Applied Legal History: Demystifying the Doctrine of Odious Debts,” Theoretical Inquiries in Law 11 (2010): 247–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar (finding tradition of sovereign rejection of “odious” debt in United States history).

22. Kornbluh, Felicia, The Battle for Welfare Rights: Politics and Poverty in Modern America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)Google Scholar.

23. See Siegel, Reva, “Roe's Roots: The Women's Rights Claims that Engendered Roe,” Boston University Law Review 90 (2010): 1875–908Google Scholar. Similarly, Sophia Lee's work on how administrative agencies interpret the Constitution has implications for how we approach public constitutionalism and constitutional interpretation. Lee, Sophia, “Race, Sex, and Rulemaking: Administrative Constitutionalism and the Workplace, 1960 to the Present,” Virginia Law Review 96 (2010): 799886Google Scholar.

24. Tani, Karen M., “Flemming v. Nestor: Anticommunism, the Welfare State, and the Making of ‘New Property,’” Law and History Review 26 (2008): 379414CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

25. Tanenhaus, David, The Constitutional Rights of Children: In re Gault and Juvenile Justice (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011)Google Scholar.

26. See, for example, Williams, Robert J., The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989)Google Scholar. See also Robertson, Lindsay, Conquest By Law: How the Discovery of America Dispossessed Indigenous Peoples of Their Lands (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

27. See, for example, Litwack, Leon, Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow (New York: Knopf, 1998)Google Scholar. The work does not necessarily see a direct line between past and present; it may tell us only about the roots of current issues, such as Davis', T.J.A Rumor of Revolt: The “Great Negro Plot” in Colonial New York (New York: Free Press, 1985)Google Scholar or it may be more closely tied to contemporary politics, such as Tibbs', DonaldFrom Black Power to Prison Power: The Making of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union (New York: Palgrave, 2011)Google Scholar.

28. Gordon Wood distinguishes historical scholarship from advocacy, and he has warned that presentist work risks losing the distance and control necessary to accurate history. See, for example, Wood, Gordon S., The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History (New York: Penguin, 2008), 293308Google Scholar. The final line warns that “historians who want to influence politics with their history writing have missed the point of their craft; they ought to run for office.” However, his work promotes a positive view of American institutions, which has contemporary relevance. See, for example, Wood, Gordon S., The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969)Google Scholar.

29. Ngai, Mae M., Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004)Google Scholar; and Motomura, Hiroshi, Americans in Waiting: The Lost Story of Immigration and Citizenship in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)Google Scholar.

30. Cover, Robert, Justice Accused: Anti-slavery and the Judicial Process (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975)Google Scholar.

31. Klarman, Michael, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)Google Scholar. Compare Post, Robert and Siegel, Reva, “Roe Rage: Democratic Constitutionalism and Backlash,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 42 (2007): 373434Google Scholar.

32. Mack, Kenneth W., Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33. Brown-Nagin, Tomiko, The Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Among the other outstanding examples of this genre, one might think of Patricia Sullivan's Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)Google Scholar.

34. Many of applied legal history's goals are similar to those that William W. Fisher described for legal history, including “contribut[ing] to contemporary policy debates by enabling readers to assess the merits and preconditions of policies pursued in other societies,” “expos[ing] injustice and inspir[ing] indignation and commitment,” and “assit[ing] contemporary judges in construing constitutional texts.” Texts and Contexts: The Application to American Legal History of the Methodologies of Intellectual History,” Stanford Law Review 49 (1997): 1065, 1096, 1101, 1103Google Scholar.

35. See, for example, Moglen, Eben, “Commercial Arbitration in the Eighteenth Century: Searching for the Transformation,” Yale Law Journal 92 (1985): 135–52Google Scholar (arbitration in colonial New York); and Brophy, Alfred L., “Ingenium est Fateri per quos profeceris’: Francis Daniel Pastorius' Young Country Clerk's Collection and Anglo-American Legal Literature, 1682–1716,” Unversity of Chiicago Law School Roundtable 3 (1996): 637, 679, 727–28Google Scholar (discussing forms for arbitration in colonial Pennsylvania). Even what looks to be “pure” legal history—such as constitutional practice in seventeenth century Massachusetts—may describe the intersection of legal practices and everyday life and those complex yet common dialectics, and may provide insight into current dynamics. See, for example, Dale, Elizabeth, Debating – and Creating – Authority: The Failure of a Constitutional Ideal in Massachusetts Bay, 1629–1649 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001)Google Scholar. Although such social history may speak to some contemporary issues, this is different from the more directly applied legal history envisioned in this article.