The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation was established by William Nelson Cromwell by a Deed of Foundation dated as of May 26, 1930.

Since its founding, the Foundation has been primarily concerned with the publication of books in the field of American legal history, with some emphasis on legal history in the colonial period.

For a number of years, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation has awarded Early Scholar prizes and fellowships to early career scholars in the field of American legal history. In 2022, the Foundation established a $10,000 prize for the legal history article of the year. The prize is intended to recognize the growing role of legal history and teaching and research in law schools. This represents the first prize the Foundation has offered which is open to scholars of any level of seniority.

On November 13, 2023, the Foundation announced that its inaugural Legal History Article of the Year Prize was awarded to Gregory Ablavsky of Stanford Law School for his article, “Getting Public Rights Wrong: The Lost History of the Private Land Claims,” 74 Stan. L. Rev. 277 (2022).

The Foundation also makes grants to support important work in all facets of American legal history including archival preservation, scholarly study of original documents, original research in all areas of the law, and research and writing of biographies of major legal figures. For information on how to apply for a prize, fellowship or grant, please click on Prizes, Fellowships & Grants.