State of the List: A Message on the Future of H-Law

Charles Zelden's picture

State of the List: A Message on the Future of H-Law

In the roughly two years since H-Law transitioned from an email-based listserv to a web-based discussion and content node, a number of hard truths have emerged as to H-Law’s ongoing condition.  Whereas once we were a discussion-driven, email-based listserv in which content came directly from our members “over the transom,” the new web-based format of the Digital Commons has proven a barrier to online discussion.  Meanwhile, the web-based Digital Commons offers many intriguing opportunities for content creation and archiving.  With these thoughts in mind, the H-Law editorial team has worked on the following new and exciting changes for H-Law.

Online Resources

The H-Law web-page has six tabs at the top of the page.  One of them is a “Resources” tab.  In the coming months, H-Law will be adding content to these categories. In particular we will be uploading to the resources tab our existing collection of sample syllabi and new syllabi recently collected by H-Law Editorial Board member John Wertheimer.  We also will place calls soon for information on Dissertations and Theses in Progress and for Articles and Journals of Interest.


One of the most useful elements of the Digital Commons is its ability to host multiple blogs.  While the Legal History Blog is an exceptional resource, the members of H-Law’s Editorial Board agree that other, underserved areas or topics in legal history justify starting a new blog(s) on H-Law to serve them.  We are therefore pleased to announce that, starting immediately, H-Law will be hosting a new World Legal History Blog, edited by Nurfadzilah Yahaya, Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

As Fadzilah writes about the new blog, “the World Legal History Blog will explore the many facets of legal history throughout the world by focusing on themes such as legal pluralism, classification, jurisdiction, sovereignty, and territoriality. We will explore the challenges of conducting historical research in multiple languages in several archives throughout the world.  We will also discuss the challenges of crafting a historical narrative out of legal sources. Each week, we will have two blog posts by legal historians focusing on a theme.”

Guidelines for the blog: Blog contributions would ideally focus on a theme of the month and be about 500-800 words long. Suggestions for themes are always welcome. As a collaborative effort, the blog will foster discussion among legal historians who otherwise would not meet due to their respective geographic specializations. Contributors could call attention to a particular archive and/or body of sources that would be useful to others. Contributors could also review books and articles on world legal history, and invite authors to respond. Contributors could start or engage in ongoing debates to be moderated by the editor. All queries and contributions should be emailed to the editor, Fadzilah Yahaya at

Other blogs still in the planning stages include a Teaching Legal and Constitutional History Blog and Legal History in the News Blog. 

The Teaching Legal and Constitutional History Blog (name subject to change) will focus on the ways that we, as legal historians, can better communicate our research and historical knowledge to various non-specialist and lay audiences.  This blog will be edited by R. B. Bernstein of City College of New York’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and Danielle J. Lewis of the United Nations International School, New York, NY.

The Legal History in the News Blog will offer a site for legal historians to publish their views on current events informed by their research and teaching in legal and constitutional history.  This blog will be the one exception to H-Law’s long-standing policy against normative postings.  So long as the blog entry draws on legal history broadly defined, discussions of current events and more technically legal/doctrinal issues will be permitted. Post can be both informal thought pieces and fully formed op-ed style postings. This blog will be edited by Charles Zelden of Nova Southeastern University.

Please note that each of these (and other blogs to come) will, as with all H-Law posts, be fully edited and that submission is not a guarantee of publication.  The final decisions on content, form, and suitability of a post to a blog will rest with the blog editor and the H-Law Editorial Board.


H-Law is pleased to announce that podcaster Siobhan Barco will begin podcasting on H-Law, beginning later this winter.  Barco explains her philosophy of podcasting by drawing on celebrated historian David Brion Davis’s insight: “the problems that surround us today are not to be blamed on individuals or even groups of individuals, but on the human race as a whole, its collective lack of perspective and knowledge of itself.” Barco strongly believe in podcasts as a means of spreading rigorously-researched ideas to a broad audience and thus bringing humanity closer to the self-conception that Davis aspires to.  

H-Law Legal History Podcasts will consist of interviews with authors about their works, especially authors who discuss the historical development of legal paradigms or who use legal texts as windows into unexplored societies. Barco hope to use her training as an attorney, historian, and experienced podcaster to ask the sorts of questions that will provoke deep thought and new insights about the intricate intermingling of law and society.

If any H-Law members are interested in discussing their work on the Legal History Podcast, please reach out to Siobhan Barco at

The Legal History Listserv

As noted above, it has become painfully obvious that the Digital Commons is not well-suited to the sort of open and free discussion that once was the core element of H-Law.  With this truth in mind, H-Law – in partnership with the American Society for Legal History – has started a separate legal history listserv.  The LHL will look and feel much as the old H-Law 1.0 did. Members will post questions, comments, or replies, using their normal email programs.  Messages will be sent to a central page where moderators will evaluate the posts and then forward them to the whole list.  Where revisions are required, the moderator will contact the poster separately.  The same rules of netiquette and topic focus of H-Law (solely on legal history broadly defined) will govern the listserv and will be enforced.  Decisions on the suitability of a post will rest with the moderator and the H-Law Editorial Board.  Please note that those interested in joining the Legal History Listserv will need to register separately for that listserv.  Membership on H-Law will not provide access to the LHL.

To join the Legal History Listserv, go to  You will be asked to provide your email address, your name (listed as optional but please do provide your name for our records) and to pick a password.  Lastly you will be able to set your account to receive posts either as they come out or batched in a daily digest.  To post to the Legal History Listserv, members need only send an email to The following long-time H-Law moderators will moderate the Legal History Listserv:

  • Charles Zelden
  • R. B. Bernstein
  • Carla Spivack
  • Jon Lurie


Of course, for those not wishing to subscribe to the new Legal History Listserv, H-Law will remain open to discussion questions and posts.  This service is not being replaced by the LHL, but complemented by it.


H-Law will continue to post announcements drawn from H-Announce and H-Jobs.  Further, we encourage all members to feel free to submit announcements of conferences, symposia, research opportunities, and/or anything else that you feel will be of interest to H-Law’s diverse membership.  Our only request is that, whatever you post, please make sure that you make clear the submission’s link to legal history broadly defined.

Book Reviews

Book reviews have been an important part of H-Law since 1994, when we published our first book review.  We remain committed to publishing quality reviews on as wide a range of legal historical topics as possible.  Michael Pfeifer and Charles Zelden remain as book review editors with a focus on North American legal history.  Carla Spivack has consented to join the book review editorial team taking a focus on the legal history of Europe.  We are still in need of more book review editors willing to focus on other regions and time periods.  In particular we are looking for book review editors to cover Asian, African and Latin American legal history.  Our expectations are that an H-Law book review editor is to edit and publish 10 book reviews a year.  If you are interested in possibly becoming an H-Law book review editor, please get in touch with Charles Zelden


In conclusion, we here at H-Law are excited by these new initiatives; we hope that H-Law continues to be a vital part of the legal historical community – as it has for the last 22 years.

Respectfully Submitted,


Charles L. Zelden

Editor, H-Law

Book Review Editor, H-Law

List Administrator, Legal History Listserv