Resources and suggestions for graduate students interested in law and history:


  1. Research tools:

In the first weeks of graduate school, you should familiarize yourself with some basic research sources and begin to investigate journals relating to your particular interests. You should start to make it a practice to try to read at least one or two of the major journals relating to your research interests, both so that you become familiar with recent books published in that area (through book reviews) and so that you can begin to learn what sorts of research is being done by reading articles published in the journal.


For students interested in law and history, there are several on line research tools and journals of particular importance.


a)      On line resources:

LexisNexis: The major on line reference for students of legal history is LexisNexis, which is a link to case and statutory law, as well as to law review articles. At UF, a basic form of lexis (“baby lexis”) is available on the Library West webpage, through “Quick Links,” or by clicking LexisNexis.  (Note that you cannot access LexisNexis through the University of Florida system unless you do so from a campus computer or dial up from off campus using a gatorlink account). Statutes, state and federal case law, and law review articles are found as sublinks from the lexis system, under the “Legal Research” link. The basic search format is a simple term or phrase search, which can be limited by date.


Hein online: While lexis has most major law reviews, it does not have full runs of many of the most important law reviews (such as Harvard Law Review). To get articles published before 1995, you often have to go to Hein Online, which has complete runs of many of the standard law reviews, as well as several legal journals published in America in the 19th century. Hein Online is also available through the Library West webpage, under “Database Locator,” or at (note that as is the case with Lexis, you must either access this from an on campus computer, or dialup from your gatorlink account).  


America: History and Life: The major online search system for locating articles, book reviews and dissertations on US History topics is America: History and Life. It is also available through the library webpage, under “Quick Links,” or here    *America: History and Life (again, this is only available on campus or through gatorlink). The comparable search system for articles, book reviews, and dissertations on European and non-US history is Historical Abstracts, which is available the same way, or by clicking here: *Historical Abstracts. Both systems use simple keyword searches, or permit you to search by a title or author’s name.


Jstor and Project Muse: These two databases are online collections of many of the major history journals, as well as other journals that may be of interest to history students. As is the case with LexisNexis, neither has complete coverage of all journals. You can browse these systems by journal, looking through tables of contents, or do global searches. Both are available through the library’s “Quick Links” connection, or by clicking here. *JSTOR and *Project Muse.


b)      Important journals:

Legal history: Probably the premier legal history journal published in the United States is Law and History Review, which comes out three times a year and maybe accessed through LexisNexis. Two other journals that deal with law and history are the American Journal of Legal History, which comes out four times a year, and Yale Journal of Law and Humanities, which comes out twice a year. All three are available at UF. Another journal that sometimes publishes materials of interest to legal historians is the Law and Society Review, which comes out four times a year.


American history: The basic journal of American History is the Journal of American History. Other journals of general interest to students of American history are the Journal of Social History, the American Historical Review, and Radical History Review, none of which is exclusively limited to American history, but typically publish at least one article on American history in each volume. Somewhat more specialized journals of interest to students of US History are: William and Mary Quarterly (which covers the colonial period through roughly 1850), Journal of Southern History (which deals with the Southern United States), Journal of Urban History, Journal of Women’s History, and the Journal of Negro History are other journals which deal with US History topics and often carry articles of interest to students of legal history.


Law reviews: These are journals published by law schools, usually edited by law students. They are typically focused on contemporary legal issues, but increasingly some of the major law reviews (notably Stanford and Yale) publish articles that deal with legal history. Some of these articles are quite good; others are attempts at history done by people whose background is in law, not history.


Review articles: Most history journals have entire sections devoted to reviewing recent books, typically the book reviews that these journals publish are about 800 words long, which is long enough to give you an idea of what the book is about, but not much more. One exception to this rule, and an excellent journal to become familiar with, is Reviews in American History, which is available online through Project Muse. This journal is exclusively devoted to publishing essays reviewing recent books in US History, the reviews it publishes are typically two or three times longer than the usual book review.  



  1. Professional development:


a)      H-Net:

H-Net is a family of online listservs relating to history and social science. Joining one or more of the lists is a good way to connect into particular fields of history, and learn about recent publications in the field (h-net runs an extensive book review service) and about conferences and grants. Joining is straightforward, go to the H-net home page at and click on the link to discussion networks. From there, you will see a list of links to the various networks, clicking on any of those links takes you to a description of the network and provides information about joining if you are interested. In addition to providing the discussion networks, H-Net has two other services of particular interest to graduate students. One is a link to announcements, which includes information about fellowships, calls for papers, and conferences. The second, which is mostly of interest to advanced graduate students, is the H-Net job guide, which provides listings of jobs in a variety of fields of history.


b)      Conferences and workshops:

Giving papers at conferences is an excellent way to make contacts in the historical profession and begin to polish your research with an eye towards publishing an article in a journal. While there is no set time line for giving papers, or getting published, as a general rule it is not a bad idea to try to give at least one or two papers at a conference before you go on the job market, and to try to submit at least one article before you defend your dissertation. With this in mind, it is good to try to think of papers that you write for your classes as preliminary drafts of conference papers or articles, and to work with professors to try to turn those papers into work that you can present or try to publish.


Once you have identified a paper that you might present at a conference it is a good idea to talk to members of your committee about where you might submit the paper. Every year, there are graduate student workshops, often run by graduate students at a particular school and focused on a particular theme. These provide a good introduction to a professional conference, and often are a way to meet and make contact with other students who are working in areas related to yours. There are also conferences run by state or regional historical associations, these are also excellent places to meet people and give papers early in your career. Once you have learned the ropes at one of these local or regional conferences, you should consider giving a paper at a national conference. Three you might consider are the Social Science History Conference (which meets every fall and has a call for papers in early spring), the annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association, which is also in the fall and is usually somewhere relatively close to Gainesville, or at the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (history up to 1840), which meets in July. These are major conferences, and places that provide an opportunity to meet important historians in your field, but they are also relatively relaxed conferences. The major conference for legal historians is the meeting of the American Society for Legal Historians, which is in the fall as well. It is a low key conference, but its participants involve a mix of people from law schools and history departments, which can be daunting at times and it prefers that people who wish to present submit entire panels involving several papers and a commentator. This requires you to know other historians and to have networked, something you can do if you have gone to other, smaller conferences first.


c)      Articles:

Ideally, after presenting a paper at a conference or two, you are ready to revise it to turn it into an article. Choosing a journal to publish in, and working to make a seminar or conference paper publishable, is something you need to work on with a member of your dissertation committee. At the same time, you can familiarize yourself with the sorts of opportunities for publication on your own. One place to think about publishing an article is a regional or state historical journal. Many states have them; some cities (such as Chicago) have historical journals as well. Regional journals are mostly interested in the history of that region, obviously enough, but they will often publish articles on any aspect of that regional history. Another journal that has been willing to publish articles by graduate students is the Journal of Southern History. Some journals, most notably the Journal of American History, have writing contests for graduate students, and publish the prize winning article. Others, including the American Journal of Legal History and Yale Journal of Law and Humanities, publish articles by graduate students sometimes. In any case, you should assume that even the most wonderful seminar paper or dissertation chapter is not good enough to publish without considerable revision, which is something you should explore with a member of your committee. Even much revised, you often find that a journal will ask for further revisions before it is willing to publish your article. (Some time in the past two years, Perspectives, a magazine published by the American Historical Association, ran an article on getting an article published in a journal. The article, which was written by Christopher Tomlins, who is the current editor of the Law and History Review, is worth reading before you submit an article to a journal.)