Early Closure

The Museum will close at 4:30pm on Thursday, May 5.

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Institute for Constitutional History

The Institute for Constitutional History sponsors or co-sponsors a variety of events during the academic year. Here is a partial list of upcoming and recent events:

Upcoming Events

The Institute for Constitutional History is pleased to announce a spring seminar for advanced graduate students and junior faculty. This year’s seminar is entitled:


Capital as a Constitutional Issue: Land and Money, 1776 –1900



Christine Desan is the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the author of a new book Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism (Oxford University Press, 2014) that seeks to decode the monetary architecture of capitalism. She is co-founder of Harvard’s Program on the Study of Capitalism, an interdisciplinary project that brings together classes, resources, research funds, and advising on that subject and has taught the Program’s anchoring research seminar, the Workshop on the Political Economy of Modern Capitalism, with Professor Sven Beckert (History, Harvard University) since 2005.  Desan’s research explores money as a legal and political project. See, e.g., “Beyond Commodification: Contract and the Credit-Based World of Modern Capitalism,” in Transformation of American Law II: Essays for Morton Horwitz (2010). Earlier work focused on the adjudicative power of legislatures and sovereign immunity. Desan is on the Board of the Institute for Global Law and Policy and is an editor of the journal Eighteenth Century Studies. This year (2015–2016), she is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Elizabeth Blackmar is a Professor of History at Columbia University. Her scholarship focuses on the history of property relations in the U.S. Her books include Manhattan for Rent, 1785-1850 and The Park and the People: A History of Central Park, co-authored with Roy Rosenzweig. She has published articles on the history of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), the tropes of the “free rider” and “tragedy of commons” in contemporary economic and legal discourse, and the history of family trusts in the 19th century. She is currently working on a book on the history of land and capital from the colonial era to the present.

Program Content:

This seminar explores a category, capital, that is often treated as a given—wealth accumulated or money amassed and seamlessly reinvested. But the shape and character of capital have been at the center of constitutional debate throughout American history. We focus in particular on land and money, critical to state formation and capitalist development in the U.S. from the Revolutionary era to the Gilded Age. The contests to define or control each expose competing sovereignties (Native American, imperial, settler; state and federal) before and long after ratification of the Constitution. Those contests have also informed the development of political ideologies, party formation, and modes of constitutional interpretation, as well as the architecture of governmental authority.

The seminar will examine classic Constitutional cases (e.g. Chisholm v. Georgia, McCulloch v. Maryland, Fletcher v. Peck, cases on state bills of credit in the Jacksonian era, the Legal Tender cases, and Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.) in relation to underlying political and economic debates over the meaning of territorial and jurisdictional sovereignty; over the powers of Congress, the presidency and state legislatures to govern money and banking; and over the legitimacy of state actions to set the terms for the accumulation and/or redistribution of wealth.


Friday afternoons, 1–4 pm, March 18, April 1, 15, and 29.  The seminar will meet at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York City.

Application Process:

The seminar is designed for graduate students and junior faculty in history, political science, law, and related disciplines. All participants will be expected to complete the assigned readings and participate in seminar discussions. Although the Institute cannot offer academic credit directly for the seminar, students may be able to earn graduate credit through their home departments by completing an independent research project in conjunction with the seminar. Please consult with your advisor and/or director of graduate studies about these possibilities. Space is limited, so applicants should send a copy of their C.V. and a short statement on how this seminar will be useful to them in their research, teaching, or professional development.  Materials will be accepted only by email at MMarcus@nyhistory.org until January 15, 2016. Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter. For further information, please contact Maeva Marcus at (202) 994-6562 or send an email to MMarcus@nyhistory.org.

Additional Information:

There is no tuition or other charge for this seminar, though participants will be expected to acquire the assigned books on their own.


Interdisciplinary Summer Workshop in Constitutional History

July 10-15, 2016
Stanford, California

The Reconstruction Amendments: Freedom, Eqaulity, and the American Consitution 

Sponsored by the Institute for Constitutional History with the Stanford Constitutional Law Center


Constitutional scholars regard the Reconstruction Amendments  --  the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth  --  as constituting the American republic’s third Constitution, the first being the failed Articles of Confederation (1781-1789), the document of 1787 as amended by the Bill of Rights the second.  Each was a constitutive moment, creating a new nation on a constitutional footing different from the preceding regime.  The Reconstruction Amendments potentially transformed the state-centered constitutional federal order of 1789-1861, resting as it did on slavery and dominated by slaveholding interests, into a national republic premised on universal freedom and the equality of all people.  They abolished slavery, added new securities for personal liberty, and empowered the national Congress to enforce those innovations, while securing the freedom, status, dignity, and rights of the freed people.  The ensuing century-and-a-half of constitutional development saw some of those aims partially achieved, but the promise of the Amendments remains unfulfilled today.  Our initial focus will be on the origins and creation of the Amendments, and their development through the first Reconstruction, the counterrevolutionary resistance that imposed White Supremacy, and the struggles of the long civil rights movement of the twentieth century to realize the promise of the Amendments.  But we will study the impact of the Amendments on non-racial matters as well.

Workshop Leaders:

James Oakes is Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His most recent books are Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 and The Scorpion's Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War.

William M. Wiecek, Congdon Professor of Public Law and Professor of History, Emeritus, Syracuse University College of Law and the Maxwell School of Syracuse University; currently visiting Professor of Law at the University of California Davis School of Law.  Professor Wiecek has taught in the History Department of the University of Missouri-Columbia and as a visiting Professor of Law at Arizona State University and the University of Kentucky.   He is a constitutional and legal historian whose work has centered on slavery, emancipation, race, and the United States Supreme Court.  He is the author, most recently of The Birth of the Modern Constitution: The United States Supreme Court, 1941-1953 (vol. XII of the Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States).

Stipends and Support:  Participants will receive accommodation at the Munger Graduate Residence on the campus of Stanford Law School and a modest stipend for meals.  Participants will also receive a travel reimbursement up to $250.  Workshop participants are expected to attend all sessions and engage in all program activities. 

Eligibility and Application Procedure: The summer workshop is designed for university instructors who now teach or plan to teach courses in constitutional studies, including constitutional history, constitutional law, and related subjects.  Instructors who would like to devote a unit of a survey course to constitutional history are also welcome to apply.  All university-level instructors are encouraged to apply, including adjuncts and part-time faculty members, and post-doctoral fellows from any academic discipline associated with constitutional studies (history, political science, law, anthropology, sociology, literary criticism, etc.).

To apply, please submit the following materials: a detailed résumé or curriculum vitae with contact information; syllabi from any undergraduate course(s) in constitutional studies you currently teach; a 500- word statement describing your interest in both constitutional studies and this workshop; and a letter of recommendation from your department chair or other professional reference (sent separately by e-mail or post). The application statement should address your professional background, any special perspectives or experiences you might bring to the workshop, and how the workshop will enhance your teaching in constitutional studies.

The deadline for applications is May 1, 2016.  Applications should be sent via electronic mail to MMarcus@nyhistory.org. Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter.



The Institute for Constitutional History (ICH) is the nation’s premier institute dedicated to ensuring that future generations of Americans understand the substance and historical development of the U.S. Constitution. Located at the New-York Historical Society and the George Washington University Law School, the Institute is co-sponsored by the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Political Science Association. The Association of American Law Schools is a cooperating entity. ICH prepares junior scholars and college instructors to convey to their readers and students the important role the Constitution has played in shaping American society. ICH also provides a national forum for the preparation and dissemination of humanistic, interdisciplinary scholarship on American constitutional history.

About The Stanford Constitutional Law Center 

The Stanford Constitutional Law Center grows out of the long and distinguished tradition of constitutional law scholarship at Stanford Law School. The Center seeks to carry on that tradition by
directing attention to the most fundamental questions of constitutional order, especially the allocation and control of governmental power through law. The Center advances this mission
through events and activities that foster scholarship, generate public discussion, attempt to transcend ideological divides, and provide opportunities for students to engage in analysis of the Constitution.

The Graduate Institute for Constitutional History is supported, in part, by the Saunders Endowment for Constitutional History and a
“We the People” challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.



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