IALS Senior Associate Research Fellow Professor Emeritus David Sugarman FRHistS has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the American Society for Legal History (ASLH)

Professor Emeritus David Sugarman FRHistS has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the American Society for Legal History (ASLH) for his “scholarly distinction and leadership in the field”.  The award was presented at the annual conference of the ASLH in Boston, USA, on 23 November 2019. In the words of the Society's website:

“Election as an Honorary Fellow of the American Society for Legal History is the highest honor the Society can confer.  It recognizes distinguished historians whose scholarship has shaped the broad discipline of legal history and influenced the work of others.  Honorary Fellows are the scholars we admire, whom we aspire to emulate, and on whose shoulders we stand.”

Professor Sugarman is the first legal historian of modern England (as distinct from medieval or early modern England) to be so recognised.  The award recognises his pioneering role in opening-up and developing an inter-disciplinary legal history of modern England that addresses the interplay between law, politics, economics, society and culture (so-called modern socio-legal history), and his dedication to mentoring and supporting other scholars. 

The American Society for Legal History is the largest international academic society in the field of legal history.  It was founded in 1956 to foster interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in the broad field of legal history.  Whilst based in the United States, its purview and membership are international in scope.  The Society sponsors a quarterly journal, 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.

Professor Sarah Barringer Gordon, President of the ASLH, on the election of Professor Sugarman as an Honorary Fellow:

"Election as an Honorary Fellow is the highest recognition we confer on a fellow legal historian, and this honor recognizes your scholarly distinction and leadership in the field. No one has done more than you to advance the field of modern British legal history, especially but not only by expanding it to include the insights of social, cultural, economic and political factors. Your path-breaking work on the legal profession, legal literature, company law, and major books and articles, lifelong dedication to teaching, and the scholars you have supported and influenced are testaments to this innovative and productive career. Your commitment to the field and to collaborative scholarship, as one of our members said, “is truly staggering in both geographic and thematic terms.” …The Society esteems you as an exemplar of what scholars and scholarship in our field can be.”

Photograph of David Sugarman and Constance Backhouse
David Sugarman and Constance Backhouse

Professor Constance Backhouse CM OOnt FRSC (Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, and a legal scholar and historian specializing in gender and race discrimination) introduced the work of David Sugarman:

David Sugarman, Emeritus Professor of Law at Lancaster University, UK, is a scholar whose astonishing career is credited with the opening up of English modern socio-legal history.  Sugarman began his academic career five decades ago, commencing his law studies at the University of Hull in 1967 and graduate study at Cambridge in 1970.  He completed an S.J.D. at Harvard in 1985, with a thesis supervised by Mort Horwitz and examined by Duncan Kennedy. 

Bob Gordon has recognized the heavy lifting involved in David Sugarman’s formative years.  He writes, “Recall that when David started to write in the late 1970s, English modern social-legal history was hardly a field at all.  There were virtually no equivalents to speak of to Hurst, Scheiber, Friedman or Horwitz.  Sugarman undaunted marched into the gap.  He assembled scraps of the work of non-legal historians related to law, and in several pioneering essays synthesized them into a tantalizing preview of what a social-legal history might come to look like. Taken together, these essays constitute both a major effort to theorize a field, and a comprehensive bibliography of existing materials in it.  And then he gradually stirred into that historiography and theoretical framework his own original contributions to them.”

And his “original contributions” were legendary.  Along the way, David Sugarman became a leading historian of the English legal profession, legal education, and legal-academic literature. He pioneered the comparison of legal professions and literatures in the United States, Canada, and Europe.  He became renowned for his mentoring of early career scholars and community building across disciplines. 

Philip Girard describes his contributions as “truly staggering in both geographic and thematic terms,” but adds that “no one could ever accuse him of being a dilettante.” Harry Arthurs describes him as “an intellectual force of nature.”  Dirk Hartog describes him as charting a “new dawn in British legal history,” a man who seems “to have read everything,” who represents “a gift to our globalizing profession.”  Bob Gordon characterizes him as a cosmopolitan force: “English to the core – no other culture could have produced anyone like him – but at the same time the least likely Brit ever to become a Brexiteer.” 

English socio-legal history has blossomed under David Sugarman’s brilliant leadership.  All of us in North America and Europe are indebted to his encyclopaedic wisdom.  He presents an extraordinary addition to the roster of Honorary Fellows of the American Society of Legal History.

Photograph of David Sugarman making a speech
Honorary Fellow David Sugarman delivers his acceptance speech

David Sugarman is Professor Emeritus of Law at Lancaster University, a Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, a Senior Associate of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal History Society.

Photograph of annual conference of the ASLH in Boston, USA