University of Wisconsin–Madison

Introducing the 2013 Hurst Fellows

Gregory Ablavsky, a doctoral candidate and Sharswood Fellow in Law & History at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He studies early American legal history, focusing particularly on the legal status of Native Americans and the origins of federal Indian law.  He is currently pursuing his doctorate in history at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is working on a dissertation tentatively titled, “Before Domestic Dependent Nations: Natives and Law in Early America.”  After completing law school at the University of Pennsylvania, he clerked for Judge Anthony Scirica of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He is the graduate student representative to the Board of the American Society of Legal History and the author of "The Savage Constitution," 63 DUKE L.J. (forthcoming); "Leaving the Bench: The Choices Federal Judges Make, What Influences Those Choices, and Their Consequences" (with Stephen Burbank and Judge S. Jay Plager), 161 U. PA L. REV 1 (2012); and Comment, "Making Indians 'White': The Judicial Abolition of Native Slavery in Revolutionary Virginia and Its Racial Legacy," 159 U. PA L. REV. 1457 (2011). 

Matthew A. Axtell, J.D. is a doctoral candidate in Princeton’s history department primarily interested in studying how legal concepts and actors have shaped (and been shaped by) markets, property relations, geography, and economic reasoning in U.S. History.  His dissertation, titled "American Steamboat Gothic: Law, Commerce, and Collective Action in the U.S. Aquatic West, 1832-1868," analyzes the papers of steamboat captains, river laborers, attorneys, and court officers to tell how the bustling commercial nature of the 19th century steamboat economy eventually joined with its interstate nature, its undercapitalization, its egalitarian spirit, and its private litigiousness to upset balances of power on Ohio River waterfronts in the mid-1800s, blurring the line between debtors and creditors, buyers and sellers, and masters and slaves.  Matthew is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (B.A., History, Highest Honors) and the University of Virginia School of Law (J.D., Traynor Prize for Best Writing by Law Graduate), and the recipient of research fellowships from the Harvard Business School, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kentucky Historical Society, the Filson Historical Society, and Indiana University-Bloomington.  In the 2013-2014 academic year he will serve as a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in Legal History at the New York University School of Law.

Lily Chang, Ph.D. is the Henry Lumley Research Fellow and a Research Associate with the Centre for History and Economics at Magdalene College, Cambridge, UK. She received her doctorate in History from the University of Oxford in December 2011. Drawing upon previously unexamined Chinese archival legal case records, her forthcoming monograph offers a comparative analysis of the historical development of the legal treatment of the young in wartime China (1937-1945). Through an examination of a practice of judicial discretion, it examines how the social impact of wartime conditions served as a crucial catalyst to providing a unique liminal space for the construction of new legal and social notions of childhood. Her second major research project examines the influence of Dutch legal scholar Bert Röling and aims to link together the reach and dissolution of the Japanese empire in both East and Southeast Asia in the immediate post-war period. It offers an analysis of Röling’s ideas concerning conflict and humanitarianism shaped notions of justice and international law amongst East Asian jurists and legal scholars following the Tokyo Trials.

Lisa Eberle is a doctoral candidate in the Group for Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology (AHMA) at University of California, Berkeley. Coming from economic and social history, she is interested in law as statecraft and in its changing role  in processes of governing. In her dissertation Lisa examines the origins and effects of the judicial dealings of Roman provincial governors in the Eastern provinces of the Empire 100 BC to AD 100 and the changes that they underwent as Rome passed from Republic to Principate in the late first century BC. In particular, she focuses on the ways in which the governors' judicial authorities and actions shaped and were shaped by the migration of Romans and Italians to these provinces and the export-oriented agriculture that these migrants began to practice there. Thus her work is situated at the intersection of agrarian history and political economy. Before coming to Berkeley for her M.A. and Ph.D. in 2008 Lisa received her B.A. in Classics from the University of Oxford. Currently she is a doctoral fellow at the Max Plank Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt. Though already abroad for a long time she continues to think and write about the development of rural regions and agricultural regimes in Austria - where she originally comes from - in the context of EU governance.

Anne Fleming, J.D. is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Pennsylvania and a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.  Her dissertation, tentatively titled "City of Debtors: Law, Loan Sharks, and the Shadow Economy of Urban Poverty, 1900-1970," traces the history of small-sum lending and consumer credit regulation in New York City from the Progressive Era through the War on Poverty. She received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where she served as a board member of the Legal Aid Bureau. After graduation, she clerked for the Honorable Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the Honorable Marjorie O. Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She also practiced as a staff attorney for South Brooklyn Legal Services, representing low-income homeowners facing foreclosure.

Taja-Nia Henderson, J.D. Ph.D. completed her dissertation in U.S. History at New York University, and is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers-Newark School of Law. She received her A.B. from Dartmouth College, her M.A. from New York University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (History), and her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was Senior Notes Editor of the N.Y.U. Law Review. After graduating law school, Taja-Nia served as the Derrick Bell Teaching Fellow in constitutional law at NYU School of Law and also clerked for the Hon. Consuelo B. Marshall, U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Taja-Nia’s teaching and research interests are in slavery, social control organizations, civil and political disabilities associated with criminal convictions, and property. Her dissertation, “Crucibles of Discontent: Penal Practice in the Shadow of Slavery,” examines the emergence of Virginia’s state prison - the first penitentiary in the slaveholding American south – and its relationship to the institution of racial slavery in the state. She is currently researching the Reconstruction Congress’ adjudication of petitions to rescind political disabilities imposed pursuant to Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment as punishment for persons “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.

Suzanne Kahn
is a doctoral candidate in Columbia University’s American History program. She works at the intersection of legal history, women’s history, and American Political Development. Her dissertation, “Divorce and the Politics of the Social Welfare Regime, 1969-2001,” examines how rising divorce rates shaped the politics and policies around women’s access to economic resources. Specifically, it looks at how married women responded to the loss of resources they typically received through their husbands—such as health insurance, pensions, and credit—and at how institutions responded to these women’s demands. Her dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation and the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Suzanne received her B.A. with honors in history from Yale University in 2007. Before returning to graduate school she worked on the Service Employees International Union’s campaign for health care reform.

Jessica Lowe, J.D.
is a doctoral candidate at Princeton University and an Associate Professor of Law, University of Virginia Law School. She studies 18th- and 19th-century American legal and cultural history, and specializes in law in the early national era.  She joined the Virginia Law faculty in the fall of 2012, and is completing a Ph.D. in American history at Princeton. Lowe received her J.D. from Harvard and her B.A. from the University of Virginia, and also studied at Yale Divinity School.  Her doctoral dissertation, entitled "Murder in the Shenandoah: Commonwealth v. John Crane and Law in Federal Virginia," focuses on a 1791 murder in Virginia’s lower Shenandoah Valley – in modern-day West Virginia – in which a young gentleman killed his neighbor’s harvest worker and later invoked a “lunacy” defense. The dissertation tells the story of the case as it wound its way through the various stages of Virginia's court system. In the process, it de-centers traditional dichotomies that have characterized the history of the region – state and local, East and West, gentry and non-gentry – to reveal the ways in which what was arguably the new nation's most politically and legally influential state was, in the critical era of the 1790s, a world in motion.  She is also beginning her second project, Sacred Texts, which is a history of American biblical and legal textualism from the Revolution to the Civil War. 

Jesse Nasta is a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, where he is a Graduate Fellow in Legal Studies. He works on 19th-century African American and legal history, focusing on the relationship between geographic mobility and African American legal status in the pre-Civil War U.S. His dissertation, tentatively titled, “Crossing Slavery’s Border, Making Slavery’s Border: African American Mobility and Freedom on Slavery’s Western Frontier, 1787-1865,” examines the legal and cultural construction of slave and free soil in the antebellum Mississippi River Valley. Drawing upon local court records, newspapers, and slave narratives, the dissertation explores the tension between legal prohibitions on slavery and the daily realities of slave and slaveholder mobility on the antebellum Mississippi. Nasta recently completed his dissertation research at the Illinois State Archives and the Missouri State Archives, where he holds the William E. Foley Research Fellowship.

Michael Schoeppner, Ph.D. completed his dissertation in American History at the University of Florida in December, 2010, and currently is an ACLS New Faculty Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. His research sits at the intersection of social and legal history, and he is particularly interested in nineteenth-century state and municipal border regulations. Michael examines these laws—and the “dangerous outsiders” they targeted—to illustrate the fluidity of constitutional concepts like citizenship and sovereignty and to highlight the role that interstate and international migrants played in shaping legal ideas and practices. He is at work on his first book, tentatively entitled The Moral Contagion of Liberty, which explores the regulation of free black sailors in the antebellum South.

Laurie M. Wood, Ph.D. completed her doctoral degree in History at the University of Texas at Austin in the spring of 2013. She is a historian of the early modern world and her research focuses on law and Francophone history in comparative and global perspectives. Her dissertation, "Îles de France: Law and Empire in the French Atlantic and Indian Oceans, 1680-1780," examines courts, known as conseils supérieurs, as anchors that connected the far-flung reaches of France's early modern empire in a common legal culture, from Versailles in France to Martinique and Mauritius in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. More broadly, her research interests focus on the question of how humans define themselves at the crossroads of global and local categories and how they act on these understandings of location and context. Laurie's work reframes colonial and metropolitan French histories as a shared past and engages transnational work on legal regimes and comparative imperialism. Her research has been supported by the Huntington Library in San Marino, the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, the Newberry Library in Chicago, the UCLA William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in Los Angeles, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Nurfadzilah Yahaya, Ph.D. is the Mark Steinberg Weil Early Career Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. She studies the social history of Muslim Diasporas based in Southeast Asia and across the Indian Ocean. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2012. Her dissertation, "Courting Jurisdictions: Colonial Administration of Islamic Law Pertaining to Arabs in the British Straits Settlements and the Netherlands East Indies, 1860-1941" explores the legal lives of Arabs merchants during the colonial period. Using law reports and court testimony, she examines the implementation of Islamic family law in Southeast Asia which rooted and fixed the lives of highly mobile Diasporic merchants in significant ways. She finds that Arab communities generally tended to seek justice and accountability in colonial legal arenas because they had opportunities to influence colonial legal administration through political and social means. Through cases studies involving marriage, divorce and family endowments, her dissertation analyzes the legal strategies of these mercantile families who tended to prioritize economic imperatives above religious ideals. For her next project, she will explore the impact of European colonial regulations on religious animal slaughter methods during the early twentieth century. By looking at debates concerning animal welfare in both the Islamic and Western worlds, she traces how Islamic and Western ethical conceptions diverged and come together. She is particularly interested in the impact of technology on changing religious norms in the Islamic world.

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