A Happy Couple: The Docket and Law and History Review

What exactly is a ‘Bobfest’!?  Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come at The Docket and Law and History Review!



All academics know that the term ‘summer break’ is silly. If anything, we get busier in the summer as we use a brief reprieve from teaching and other campus-based responsibilities to dive into research and writing. This is definitely the case at Law and History Review, as our team pushes forward with their research projects, frantically plans for the next year of both LHR and The Docket, and tries to sneak in some family time too.   Perhaps this is a good time to let our readers know a bit more about our new digital initiative, and to preview some of the things we have in store.


In our inaugural issue, American Society for Legal History President Sally Gordon made a stirring case that it was time to bring Law and History Review into the digital age. She was definitely right about that. But I wanted to drill down a bit further, to explain why I have been so bullish about this project. I fundamentally believe that the internet has transformed historiography. We remain wedded to empirical studies of primary sources, usually located in archives. Our dialogue, however, is no longer confined to journals, books, and conferences. On the other hand it has accelerated apace with the digital age. You may not be able to physically attend every conference with legal history content, yet you might virtually attend by monitoring social media posts from that conference. Scholarly journal articles have now become the foundation of long threads of discussion on Facebook and Twitter. Books are still reviewed in journals but they are also discussed on podcasts and blogs. Law and History Review has always been my favorite journal but even before I became Editor, I worried that our articles and authors were less visible in these discussions on blogs and social media. I hope that The Docket helps to solve this problem. In particular, we have such wonderful content in Law and History Review that speaks to multiple scholarly fields and, quite often, to pressing questions in contemporary law and politics. Perhaps non-legal historians will find their way into our robust world!


Felice Batlan’s comprehensive piece in this issue is a testament to how legal history can connect with the present. She tells us how, in the early 20th century, discriminatory laws forced activists to become experts in immigration law; and how the cruelest tendencies of the law bore down upon those with the least power. Sound familiar? Indeed, she explicitly connects the story of the Immigrants’ Protective League with the crisis surrounding the Trump administration’s radical immigration policies.


While we keep our eyes on the present, we also remain dedicated to our own past. So the next issue of The Docket will be a Special Issue commemorating the ongoing career of one of the world’s leading legal historians, Robert W. Gordon. Some months ago, Gordon’s colleagues and former students gathered to pay tribute to his immense contributions to the world of legal history, in an event that has come to be known as, ‘Bobfest.’ We are proud to be publishing the proceedings from ‘Bobfest,’ including a reflection by Professor Gordon himself.


We’ve also got some great content in the August, 2018 Law and History Review that I’d like to mention. Tomiko Brown-Nagin, who in addition to being the Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law and Harvard Law School was recently appointed Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, has written an article that historicizes the ‘resistance’ movement against the Trump administration in the twentieth century movements for civil rights and social justice. The piece reprises her Plenary Lecture at the 2017 American Society for Legal History Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. We’ll also feature an article by Mariana Dias Paes and Pedro Cantisano on freedom suits in late nineteenth-century Brazil, Anna Wallerman on Swedish law under Nazi occupation, and Sara Mayeaux on the remarkable story of public defenders in 1930s Los Angeles. We also have the neat pairing of pieces by Will Smiley on the international law of war in the Philippines, 1898-1903, and John Witt on a lost theory of American constitutionalism. Not too long ago, Smiley was a law student at Yale where Witt was one of his teachers. Finally, we feature a review article by Tom Coffman of Harry N. Scheiber and Jane L. Scheiber’s recent book, Bayonets in Paradise: Martial Law in Hawai’I during World War II.


Thank you for exploring The Docket! If you’d like to contribute, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to Digital Editor Michan Connor. We’d love to hear from you!


Gautham Rao