The Brown Legal History Workshop offers a regular forum for faculty and graduate students at Brown to share ideas engaging the themes of law or legal history—broadly construed and unrestricted by geography, chronology, or discipline. The workshop originated from observations that there are a number of scholars at Brown working on or interested in law and legal history across various disciplines, but there was no venue to bring all of us together into an intellectual community with common interests. We typically meet six times a year; three times each Fall and Spring semester. Our goal is to use one another’s work-in-progress or research questions to generate discussions of interest to all but of particular help to an individual presenter. The climate we seek to create is informal but engaged, and law-related but interdisciplinary.

Workshops are traditionally held on a Friday morning from 9:00—10:30 a.m. and are open to all Brown faculty, visiting scholars, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students. Breakfast is provided for all attendees. Presenters share pre-circulated materials one week in advance and offer brief opening comments at the start of the workshop to situate their work in context. To preserve our low-pressure environment and collaborative culture, we prefer works in progress. The format is open, including, for example: a standard 10-30 page double-spaced paper for a conference or publication (preferably in an early, unpolished form); a draft grant application, dissertation prospectus, or book proposal; or even preliminary reflections on a set of raw legal sources such as court records, a contemporary case or act of legislation, or other kinds of sources and interpretive methods. Although the workshop is steered by four faculty in the Brown History Department with research interests in legal history, the "Legal" and "History" in our title should not be understood narrowly. We welcome contributions from any department, discipline, or topic implicated in the study of law or justice, for any time period or place. For example, previous workshops have engaged both theories and practice of social justice; race, gender, and class; the laws of war and human rights; conflict and dispute resolution; immigration and law enforcement; intersections between law and other professional fields, including education, medicine and public health, banking and finance, and environmental policy; as well as how the arts, visual culture, and literature engage the law.

The Fall 2019 schedule is now finalized (below). The workshop is currently seeking presenters for the Spring 2020 semesters. Any members of the Brown University community wishing to present in the future—faculty, visiting scholars, postdoctoral fellows, or graduate students—should email or the organizers (below).  

The Brown Legal History Workshop was established in 2015 and has been generously supported by the Brown History Department, Dean of Faculty Office, Cogut Institute for the Humanities, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and the American Society for Legal History.

Fall 2019 Schedule

All Workshops Convene at:
The Brown Faculty Club, 1 Bannister St. (Wheelchair accessible).
9:00—10:30 AM (Breakfast Provided).    

To attend any or all workshops, please RSVP no later than one week in advance to:

September 27: Lin Fisher, Associate Professor of History "Slavery before Race? Native American Slavery, Customary Practice, and the Law in the Seventeenth Century English Atlantic"  

October 25: Michael Vorenberg, Associate Professor of History 
“Prisoners of Freedom, Prisoners of War: An Untold Story of Black Incarceration--And How it Might be Told”

November 15: Nicole Sintetos, Ph.D. Candidate, American Studies
“Reclamation: Race, Labor, and the Engineering of Settler States” 

The workshop organizers are:

Emily Owens         

Michael Vorenberg 

Rebecca Nedostup

Faiz Ahmed           (On leave, 2019-20)



Spring 2019

February 8: Cynthia Brokaw, Chen Family Professor of Chinese Studies and Professor of History, Brown University

Intellectual Property with Chinese Characteristics: Before and After the Rise of the IP Legal Regime.

March 15: Daniel A. Rodriguez, Manning Assistant Professor of History, Brown University

The Right to Health in Post-Independence Cuba.

May 3: Rawan M. Arar, Postdoctoral Fellow in International and Public Affairs, Watson Institute, Brown University

Syrian Refugees and the State.

Fall 2018

October 5: Jennifer Johnson, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University

Demographic Pressure and National Anxieties: Development, Religion, and Family Planning in Postcolonial Morocco.

November 2: Jeremy Mumford, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University

Kidnapping an Heiress: Incas, Spaniards, and a Child Marriage in Colonial Cuzco.

December 7: Abhilash Medhi, Ph.D. Candidate in History, Brown University

Liberalism, Legal Fictions, and the Land Question in British Northeast India.

Spring 2018

February 23: Paul M. B. Gutierrez, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, Brown University

Colonizing through Contract: The Settler Colonial Entanglements of Corporate Charters and Private Contracts in Dartmouth College v.     Woodward.

March 9: Daniel Platt, Ph.D. Candidate in American Studies, Brown University

A Relation of Status and Not of Contract’: The Family Privilege in Nineteenth-Century Insolvency Law.

April 6: Alex Winder, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Palestinian Studies, Brown University

Between Communal Reconciliation and Collective Punishment: The Interplay of Formal and Informal Justice in Response to Rural Crime in British Mandate Palestine.

*April 27: Sara Matthiessen, Assistant Professor of History and Gender and Sexuality Studies, George Washington University

Pregnancy without Men? Lesbian Motherhood and the Uniform Parentage Act. *Special Collaboration with the Brown Gender History Workshop.

Fall 2017

October 13: Sreemati Mitter, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

"Always Borrowers": Financial Life in Mandate Palestine.

November 10: Tracy Steffes, Associate Professor of Education and History, Brown University

The Struggle for Fair and Affordable Housing in 1970s Suburban Chicago.

December 1: Bathsheba R. Demuth, Assistant Professor of History and Environment and Society, Brown University

Marine Mammals, Transnational Conservation, and Indigenous Rights at the Bering Strait.

Spring 2017

February 10: Jordan Branch, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Brown University

Technological Change and Territorial Politics: Historical Considerations”.

March 10: Evelyn Hu-Dehart, Professor of History, American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University

Chinese ‘Coolies’ in Nineteenth Century Cuba and the Transition to Free Labor.”

April 14: Amelia Hintzen, Ruth J. Simmons Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Study of Slavery & Justice, Brown University

A Sugarcane Immigration Status: How Migration, Documentation, and Sugar Production Changed Citizenship in the Dominican Republic.”

Fall 2016

September 30: Sara Ludin, Ph.D. Candidate in Jurisprudence, UC Berkeley, Visiting Research Fellow in History, Brown University

“Was Art und Wesens die seien": Attempts to Define ‘Religion’ as a Category of Legal Issue after the Nürnberg Peace of 1532.

October 28: Sarah Besky, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

Spaces for Labor: Inheritance and Infrastructure on Darjeeling Tea Plantations.

December 2: Elena Shih, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University

Benevolent Authoritarianism and Global Governance: Human Trafficking Law and Labor Politics in China.

Spring 2016

February 26: Rebecca Nedostup, Associate Professor of History, Brown University

In the Realm of Dysfunctional Constitutions: Learning about Rights and Power from Chinese Administrative Appeals.

March 18: Deak Nabers, Associate Professor of English, Brown University

Ordered Liberty: Military Power and American Liberal Constitutionalism.

May 6: Caroline Castiglione, Professor of Italian Studies and History, Brown University

Cesare Beccaria’s On Crimes and Punishments (1764): Doubting Readers, Dubious Theories and Legal Reform in the Eighteenth Century.

Fall 2015

October 30: Kevin Escudero, Presidential Diversity Fellow in American Studies, Brown University

Not Just Undocumented: Intersectional and Situational Identity as Social Movement Strategy.

December 4: Stefano Bloch, Presidential Diversity Fellow in Urban Studies, Brown University

Applying Gang Enhancement Legislation to Prosecutorial Police Action.