On April 5th 2024, the Stanford Center for Law and History will host its 6th annual conference, “Legal Histories of American Governance: Institutions and the State.” Operating through a mix of public and private institutions, including many at the local level, the sprawling American state exerts enormous power on the lives of ordinary people in a vast array of contexts. This conference will explore legal histories of the American state and the institutions through which it acts. From schools to courts to public utility commissions, these institutions are a feature of daily life in the United States, from the mundane to the life altering, serving as a key focal point of American governance.
This conference brings together scholars of law and history to examine American state building across a range of different institutions, as well as the many different people whom these institutions affect. Focusing, in particular, on courts, schools, and mechanisms of economic regulation (including public utility commissions and trade associations), this conference explores patterns of state-building that transcend any one domain, exploring the defining features of the American model of governance.