Hendrik Hartog

Hendrik Hartog is the Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty, Emeritus, at Princeton University and a former director of the university's program in American studies. Before coming to Princeton he taught in the law schools of the University of Wisconsin and Indiana University. Hartog has spent his scholarly and teaching life working in the social history of American law, studying how broad political and cultural themes have been expressed in ordinary legal conflicts. He has worked in a variety of areas of American legal history as it affects city life, constitutional rights claims, marriage, and inheritance and old age as well as the historiography of legal change. He is the author, most recently, of Nobody’s Boy and His Pals: The Story of Jack Robbins and the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic (2024), as well as The Trouble with Minna: A Case of Slavery and Emancipation in the Antebellum North (2018); Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age (2012), a study of gradual emancipation in New Jersey; Public Property and Private Power: The Corporation of the City of New York in American Law, 1730–1870 (1983); and Man and Wife in America: A History (2000) -- cited in the majority opinion in Obergefeld v. Hodges, where the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.

NEW IN 2024: Nobody’s Boy and His Pals: The Story of Jack Robbins and the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic (The University of Chicago Press)

OAH Lectures by Hendrik Hartog

In this engaging lecture about social reformer Jack Robbins, the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic, and their legacy, Hartog challenges ideas about the history of American childhood and the law. Based on extensive research, he presents an examination of the legal histories of Progressive reform, childhood, criminality, repression, and free speech. In 1914, social reformer Jack Robbins and a group of adolescent boys in Chicago founded the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic, an unconventional and unusual institution. During a moral panic about delinquent boys, Robbins did not seek to rehabilitate and/or punish wayward youths. Instead, the boys governed themselves, democratically and with compassion for one another, and lived by their mantra “So long as there are boys in trouble, we too are in trouble.” Filled with persistent mysteries and surprising connections, Nobody’s Boy and His Pals illuminates themes of childhood and adolescence, race and ethnicity, sexuality, wealth and poverty, and civil liberties, across the American Century.

I would want to explore how federalism has been used and how it might be used; likewise for separation of powers claims. I’m confident that there are others who know more and would do a better job than I. But I’m willing to try if the occasion arises. I have written a fair amount about the history of rights claims and of rights consciousness.

Property law as an arena of social conflict across American history


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