The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation awards annually to an early career scholar a $5000 book prize for excellence in scholarship in the field of American legal history. The prize is designed to recognize and promote new work in the field by graduate students, law students, post-doctoral fellows and early career faculty. The work may be in any area of American legal history, including constitutional and comparative studies, but scholarship in the colonial and early national periods will receive some preference. The prize is limited to a first book copyrighted no later than the tenth calendar year following the calendar year in which the author was awarded a PhD or other highest degree earned. A book shall be eligible for the prize in the year of its copyright or of its actual publication. However, no book shall be considered for the prize more than once. The Cromwell Prize Advisory Committee of the American Society for Legal History (the “ASLH”) reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the Foundation.

Application Procedure:

The application procedure is described on the ASLH website, which may be accessed by clicking the following link:

Past Recipients

Year Winner
2023 R. Isabela Morales, Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom (Oxford, 2022).
2022 Gregory Ablavsky, Federal Ground: Governing Property and Violence in the First U.S. Territories (Oxford, 2021).
2021 Christine Walker, Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain’s Atlantic Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 2020).
2020 Sam Erman, Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2019).
2019 Kimberly M. Welch, Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2018).
2018 Cynthia Nicoletti, Secession on Trial: The Treason Prosecution of Jefferson Davis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
2017 Karen M. Tani, States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972 (Cambridge University Press 2016).
2016 Kevin Butterfield, The Making of Tocqueville’s America – Law and Association in the Early United States (University of Chicago 2015).
2015 John W. Compton, The Evangelical Origins of the Living Constitution (Harvard University Press 2014).
2014 Yvonne Pitts, Family, Law, and Inheritance in America: A Social and Legal History of Nineteenth-Century Kentucky (Cambridge University Press 2013).
2013 Jonathan Levy, Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America (Harvard University Press, 2012).
2012 Daniel J. Sharfstein (Vanderbilt University), The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (Penguin Press, 2011).
2011 Mark Brilliant (University of California, Berkeley), The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978 (Oxford University Press, 2010).
2010 Margot Canaday (Princeton University), The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton University Press, 2009).
2009 Rebecca M. McLennan (University of California, Berkeley), The Crisis of Imprisonment: Protest, Politics, and the Making of the American Penal State, 1776-1941 (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
2008 Christian W. McMillen (University of Virginia), Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethnohistory ( Yale University Press, 2007).
2007 Roy Kreitner (Tel Aviv University), Calculating Promises: The Emergence of Modern American Contract Doctrine (Stanford University Press, 2006).
2006 Holly Brewer (North Carolina State University), By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority (University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
2005 John Fabian Witt (Columbia University), The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law (Harvard University Press, 2004).
2004 Michael Willrich (Brandeis), City of Courts: Socializing Justice in Progressive Era Chicago (Cambridge University Press, 2003).