Stanford Law School’s (SLS) Amalia D. Kessler, Director of the Stanford Center for Law and History, has received the 2018 John Phillip Reid Book Award. The annual award is granted to the best monograph by a mid-career or senior scholar, published in English on Anglo-American legal history. The award was presented at this year’s American Society for Legal History (ASLH) annual meeting in Houston, TX, from November 8-11.
Kessler, the Lewis Talbot and Nadine Hearn Shelton Professor of International Legal Studies at SLS and Professor (by courtesy) of History, was recognized for her book “Inventing American Exceptionalism: The Origins of American Adversarial Legal Culture, 1800-1877.“
Kessler’s book, published by Yale Press in 2017, provides the first account of the origins of adversarial legal culture in the United States, challenging the assumption that the U.S.’s reliance on lawyer-driven, adversarial procedure is somehow inevitable or innate. The book weaves together procedural doctrine and practice with the socio-economic, political and cultural life of the nation.
“The book explores how nineteenth-century arguments over adversarialism came to be bound up with debates over the role of government in market-based society and the place of race and racial status in shaping social and economic relations—questions that remain very much alive and with us today,” said Kessler. “This book shows how adversarialism became part and parcel of a grand narrative of American exceptionalism and also helps to explain our country’s significant and ongoing crisis with access to justice.”
Kessler was on hand to accept the award at the 48th annual ASLH meeting from Professor Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania), President of the ASLH, and Professor Richard Ross (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana), Chair of the John Phillip Reid Award Committee.
The American Society for Legal History was founded in 1956 to foster interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in the broad field of legal history. Although based in the United States, its purview and membership are international in scope. The Society sponsors a quarterly journal, the Law and History Review, and a book series, Studies in Legal History, both of which are published for the Society by Cambridge University Press. The Society holds its Annual Meeting each fall. The meeting is an opportunity for historians, law professors, graduate students, lawyers, and judges from around the world to gather and meet fellow travelers and to present and discuss their scholarship.
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