Gregory Ablavsky was awarded the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Book Prize by the American Society for Legal History for his book, Federal Ground: Governing Property and Violence in the First U.S. Territories.
Federal Ground, an analysis of early territorial governance, is beautifully written, deeply researched, innovative, and sophisticated. Mining a wide variety of legal and governmental sources, Ablavsky makes original arguments of consequence to several fields in addition to legal history, including Native American history, settler colonialism, and early American state-building. What appears at first to be a narrative of a failed state turns, unexpectedly, into a curious story of limited state “success,” illuminating how the federal state earned legitimacy and practical power in the only regions where it was in charge. Ablavsky shows how both the Natives and white settlers/speculators used or lobbied inchoate federal institutions – at first, just a handful of officers and their ad hoc commissions – to shape the legal landscape in ways that furthered their interests and visions of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys.Read More