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Program in Law and History

The Program in Law and History was established in 2007. The program's mission is to support the study of law in its historical context. The program brings together scholars and students from the University of Minnesota and around the world to foster teaching and research in all areas and periods of legal history.

Fall 2016 Legal History Workshop
Seminar Guest Schedule

Professor Barbara Welke

Fridays, 9:00-10:30 a.m. (except where otherwise noted!), Mondale Hall (the Law School) Room 473

Questions? Contact Barbara Welke at welke004@umn.edu.



"800 Consuls, 800 Interpretations: The Uneven Projection of US Sovereignty across the Globe in the Long Nineteenth Century"
Nicole Phelps, Associate Professor of History, University of Vermont
Note: Time change to 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Abstract: From the creation of the US Consular Service as part of the new Department of State in 1789, consuls were essential to the proper functioning of US sovereignty in a global context. In performing their duties, they gave meaning and force to a range of bilateral treaties, and they were essential to the collection of customs duties, which were the chief source of federal revenue. As the nineteenth century progressed, the number and complexity of US laws with international aspects grew, as did the volume of people and goods crossing international borders. Consular responsibilities grew accordingly, as did the size of the service, but training and instructions to consuls did not. This talk will explore the Washington-based Consular Bureau's efforts to create a service that performed its tasks uniformly and effectively and the obstacles to that project presented by consuls more attuned to local conditions, those with their own conceptions consular responsibilities, and those whose education and experiences were overwhelmed by the demands of their posts.



"Evaluating the Female Cuban "Entrant": The Intimate Politics of Refugee Resettlement in the Cuban Mariel Migration of 1980"
Melissa Hampton, Ph.D. Candidate in History
Abstract: Drawing on case files from the American Council of Nationalities Services, this paper explores how state-affiliated resettlement agencies (VOLAGS) negotiated resettlement of Mariel Cuban migrant women in the United States in the early 1980s.  It pays special attention to the processes through which state agents, doctors, and mental health specialists identified, constructed, and evaluated the race, class, sexuality, and marital and mental statuses of Mariel women.  It also examines to what extent narratives of criminalization, pathologization, and victimization affected Mariel women's ability to resettle in the United States.  Ultimately, the paper reveals how detention camps came to serve as important sites where discourses and policies towards Mariel women came together and shifted.


Syllabus – "Law, Citizenship, and Empire in U. S. History"
Evan Taparata, Ph.D. Candidate in History
Abstract: This draft syllabus explores ideas for a course on law, citizenship, and empire in American history. The course will have a secondary focus on public history. The goals for the course are twofold: first, to encourage students to engage with law's role (and the role of people who shape law) in defining geographic and demographic borders. And second, to encourage students to consider how public history, by virtue of its accessibility and open access, has the potential to challenge dominant narratives about citizenship and belonging in U.S. history.


"Debt's Seduction and Defining Women's Worth: The Patriarchal Dance of Law and Finance in the New Debt Economy"
Allison Schwartz, Ph.D. Candidate in History
Abstract: This chapter examines the congressional and public dialogues surrounding the Equal Credit Opportunity Act(1974).  Prohibiting credit discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status, the ECOA produced conflicting visions between women, feminists, legislators, and lenders on how to best determine women's worth as a measure for lending. As the debt women incurred increased, policymakers and financial institutions crafted a law that sidestepped intersecting systems of discriminations, undercutting women's access to capital from their employer and lender. This chapter establishes the ECOA as pivotal to intensifying a praxis of debt, which ultimately undermined the liberating potential of legal personhood.
"Future States and States of Exception: Native Sovereignty, Land, and "Incorporated" Territories"
Jessica Arnett, Ph.D. Candidate in History
Abstract: This chapter examines how the transition of Alaska from a territory into the 49th state reveals fundamental tensions between U.S. settler colonial and imperial projects, the contingency of statehood for "incorporated" territories, and the implications for land and sovereignty struggles of Native people at the edges of empire. The legal and territorial construction of statehood for both Alaska and Hawaii belies the assumptions of "incorporated" territories as future states, exposing vulnerabilities that Native people leveraged in as they negotiated their relationship with the federal government.
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Susanna Blumenthal
Professor of Law,
Associate Professor of History
American Legal History

Barbara Young Welke
Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Professor of History and Professor of Law
American Legal and Constitutional History


Jacquelyn E. Burt