Prof. Witt Wins Cromwell Prize for Legal History

Professor's study of early workplace reforms earns honor from the American Society for Legal History

Columbia Law Professor John Fabian Witt won the 2005 William Nelson Cromwell Foundation prize for excellence in scholarship in the field of American Legal History by a junior scholar. President Harry Scheiber announced the award, which is given annually, at the American Society for Legal History meeting in Cincinnati.

The prize is designed to recognize and promote new work in the field by graduate students, law students and faculty. The work may be in any area of American legal history.

"This is indeed a great honor for John, who is an extraordinary colleague on so many dimensions, and a great honor for the school," said Columbia Law School Dean David Schizer. "We are very proud of our wonderful group of legal historians."

Prof. Witt earned the award for his book, "The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law" (Harvard University Press). Prof. Witt argues that experiments in accident law at the turn of the 20th century shaped modern American accident law and laid the foundations of the American administrative state. In the process, a new regime of risk and insurance supplanted nineteenth-century free-labor ideology. Witt's book integrates his analysis within the broader trends in American legal and political history.

The committee awarding the prize noted that this year's pool of candidates was remarkable in the number of superb works submitted.