OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Ajay K. Mehrotra

Portrait of Ajay K. Mehrotra

Ajay K. Mehrotra is the executive director of the American Bar Foundation. He is also a research professor there, a professor of law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, and an affiliated faculty member of the Northwestern University history department. He teaches legal history and taxation, and his research focuses on the historical relationship between taxation and American state formation. He is the author of Making the Modern American Fiscal State: Law, Politics, and the Rise of Progressive Taxation, 1877–1929 (2013). He is a coeditor, with Monica Prasad and Isaac William Martin, of The New Fiscal Sociology: Taxation in Comparative and Historical Perspective (2009). His writings have also appeared in several interdisciplinary journals, including Law & Social Inquiry, Law and History Review, and Law & Society Review. His scholarship and teaching have been supported by grants and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Social Science Research Council.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

The United States has a tax system that is not quite like many other advanced, industrialized democracies. This lecture will provide a historical and comparative perspective to explain American tax exceptionalism.
In recent years, there has been growing attention to the increasing concentration of wealth in the United States. Commentators have referred to the last few decades as the New Gilded Age. This lecture focuses on the First Gilded Age and the Progressive Era to show how past reformers, commentators, and lawmakers responded to an earlier era of massive economic inequality.
Law, legal processes, and legal institutions have long played a pivotal role in American political and economic development. One of the fundamental aims of this lecture is to show how the law – broadly conceived – has affected, and been affected by, the emergence of a market economy in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.
Throughout the twentieth-century fiscal policy has been a critical tool in addressing a variety of social, economic, and political problems. Indeed, during this time period, tax laws and policies have been at the vanguard of American political development. This lecture discusses the role that taxation has played in American state-formation from the turn of the twentieth-century to the present.