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Christopher L. Tomlins

Christopher Lawrence Tomlins is Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley and an Affiliated Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation.  Before joining the American Bar Foundation in 1992, he was Reader in Legal Studies at La Trobe University, Melbourne (Australia).  He has a Ph.D. in History (Johns Hopkins) and a fine collection of Masters’ Degrees – in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (Oxford), in American Studies (University of Sussex), and in History (Johns Hopkins).  At UC Berkeley he teaches in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy graduate program and the undergraduate Legal Studies program.  In 2011 Tomlins was elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society, and in 2016 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the American Society for Legal History.

Chris Tomlins is well known as a legal historian whose interests and research are cast very broadly – from sixteenth century England to twentieth century America; from the legal culture of work and labor to the interrelations of law and literature; from the jurisprudence of Francisco de Vitoria of Salamanca to the critical theory and historical materialism of Walter Benjamin.  Since beginning his academic career in 1980, Tomlins has written or edited twelve books, of which the most recent is In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History (2020) also available here.  You can read more about it here.  His last major book was Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 (2010) (also available here)In March 2011 Freedom Bound was awarded the Bancroft Prize, given annually by the trustees of Columbia UniversityThe book has also been awarded the Hurst Prize of the Law and Society Association, the John Phillip Reid Prize of the American Society for Legal History, and named a Choice "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2011.

Other recent books include The Oxford Handbook of Legal History (2018) co-edited with Markus Dubber; Searching for Contemporary Legal Thought (2017) co-edited with Justin Desautels-Stein;  the multi-volume Cambridge History of Law in America (2008) co-edited with Michael Grossberg; and The United States Supreme Court: The Pursuit of Justice (2005).  Earlier books include The Many Legalities of Early America (2000), Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early American Republic (1993), Labor Law in America (1992), and The State and the Unions (1985)

Tomlins has also published about 200 chapters, articles, working papers, scholarly editorials, and other bits and pieces.  From 1995 until 2004, he was editor of the Law and History Review.  From 2005 until 2009 he was first co-editor (with Jack Heinz) then sole editor of Law & Social Inquiry.  He also edits the Cambridge University Press book series Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society, and co-edits (with Michael Grossberg) the CUP series New Histories of American Law.  His publications have been awarded the Surrency prize of the American Society for Legal History, the Littleton-Griswold prize of the American Historical Association, the J. Willard Hurst prize of the Law and Society Association (twice), the John Phillip Reid Prize of the American Society for Legal History, and the Bancroft Prize of the trustees of Columbia University. 

Current research addresses (a) labor and labor law history; (b) comparative leagal history; (c) Walter Benjamin and the law; (d) the historiography and philosophy of legal history.

In his spare time he likes to sleep.

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