Past Programs

A selection of some of the past programs and seminars offered by the Institute for Constitutional History

Constitutions in Conflict: Proslavery versus Antislavery (Fall 2021)

The Constitution of 1787 was, famously, a compromise between proslavery and antislavery delegates. Professors James Oakes and Sean Wilentz examine critical points at which different interpretations of slavery and the Constitution were debated.

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America’s Unregulated Police (Spring 2021)

Professors Barry Friedman and Maria Ponomarenko led a discussion of the historical antecedents of policing today; the troubled relationship between race and policing; and the theoretical and practical approaches to reimagining public safety.

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Constitutional Norms, Constitutional Conflict, and Informal Constitutional Change (Fall 2020)

Professors Josh Chafetz and David Pozen led discussions on the origins, functions, and mutability of constitutional norms, with special attention paid to 20th- and 21st-century instances of intense constitutional conflict.

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The Law of Nations and the Early American Constitution (Spring 2020)

David Golove and Daniel Hulsebosch led an exploration of the ways that early Americans invoked the law of nations to make sense of what it meant to be a revolutionary republic in a world of nations.

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The Creation of the Constitution (Winter 2020)

Students with serious interests in history, political theory, and constitutional law an opportunity examine how the Constitution was created, debated, ratified, and interpreted during the origins of the Republic.

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Rethinking the Twentieth-Century Constitution (Fall 2019)

Much of our constitutional law today arises out of the great controversies and social mobilizations of the 20th century. Jamal Greene and John Fabian Witt led seminar participants on a guided tour through new literature on the history of the twentieth-century constitution.

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Three English Revolutions (Summer 2019)

Eric Nelson and Michael McConnell led a seminar to explore the role played by the two 17th-century English Revolutions (of 1642-1660 and 1688-9) in the constitutional debates surrounding the American Revolution.

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Antislavery Constitutionalism (Spring 2019)

Nowhere did the Constitution figure more prominently than in the increasingly rancorous debates over slavery. For decades, scholars have investigated the proslavery compromises embedded within the Constitution, but much less attention has been paid to antislavery constitutionalism.

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Legal Thought in an Age of Fracture (Fall 2018)

The idea of “the common good” with a call to fulfill duties of sacrifice and common purpose seemed to dissolve with the end of the Cold War. Led by Robert W. Gordon and Daniel T. Rodgers, this workshop drew from legal sources—cases, speeches, policy statements, and academic articles—illustrating facets of the Age of Fracture.

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The Constitutional History of Anglo-American Empire (Summer 2018)

Building on the literatures on constitutional development in the British Empire, the constitutional origins of the American Revolution, and settler constitutionalism, the seminar focused on colonization and territorial expansion, the law of slavery, and geopolitics from first settlement to the era of “Manifest Destiny.”

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The Travails and Contradictions of Progressivism within the Law: 1908-1941 (Spring 2018)

How had progressivism been transformed during the long, varied careers of William Howard Taft and Charles Evans Hughes? To what extent were both jurists “independent of rigid ideology?” This seminar explored these questions through books, articles, and discussion.

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Free Press (Fall 2017)

The American press has been among the freest in the world—but that freedom has been repeatedly challenged. This seminar offered a grounding in the classical ideas and law of press freedom, with an eye toward applying these ideas to the challenges of 21st century media technology and political change.

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Mothers and the Constitution (Fall 2017)

The seminar explored the relationship between the changing practice of motherhood and the law, focusing on the twentieth century; and taking into account the influence of such factors as race, religion, migration, and sexuality on developing constitutional interpretation.

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Education programs are made possible through endowments established by
National Endowment for the Humanities
The Hearst Foundations
The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation

Public funds are provided by
Institute of Museum and Library Services
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer
New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature

Education programs at New-York Historical receive generous support from
The Achelis and Bodman Foundation
The Edith and Frances Mulhall Achilles Memorial Fund
Acorn Hill Foundation
Altman Foundation
Barker Welfare Foundation
Best Buy
Maggie & Robert Boroujerdi
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Con Edison
Deutsche Bank
Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation
Mark and Lori Fife
Henry Nias Foundation
Alan Shuch and Leslie Himmel
JPMorgan Chase Foundation
Keith Haring Foundation
Susan and Robert E. Klein
Caroline Lowndes Foundation
Ann Lozman
Dan W. Lufkin

Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation
The Michael Tuch Foundation
Sandra and Lowell Mintz
Consulate General of the Netherlands
New York Community Trust
Onassis Foundation USA
Heidi and Richard Ong
Pine Tree Foundation of New York
The Pinkerton Foundation
Jean Reid
Denice Rein
Richard Reiss
Rice Family Foundation
Sara Lee Schupf
The Scripps Family Fund for Education and the Arts
Robie Spector
Stavros Niarchos Foundation
Gillian V. and Robert Steel
Thompson Family Foundation
Tiger Baron Foundation
The Waterfall Family Foundation
Rachael Wells
Winston Foundation
Marie and John Zimmermann Fund