Even as digital approaches and technology have become more widely used and accepted across the discipline of history, there has yet to be a focused discussion of their impact on legal history, or any engagement with the digital turn by the ASLH. That is the case notwithstanding that legal scholars’ use of digital research tools such as LexisNexis significantly predates the rise of digital humanities. Those databases also highlight the large bodies of textual data that exist in legal history to which digital approaches and tools could be applied – far more than in most other fields of history. The situation has recently begun to change. A special issue of Law and History Review on digital history and law is in the works, and a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Legal History will include an article on digital history.

This one-day, pre-conference workshop aims to increase awareness of digital legal history, and encourage discussion of how digital methods and technologies can be used to analyze and present the legal past. The workshop combines an extended showcase of four projects that each employs a different approach, and a set of hands-on workshops offering a beginner-level introduction to the methods used in those projects.

The project showcase format is designed to allow for a more extended consideration of examples of digital legal history than is possible in a conference presentation, and for a wider range of examples than is possible in a longer talk by a single scholar or devoted to a single project. Each presentation will explore the process that created the project, the project itself, and the insights gained from taking that approach. The goal is to provoke discussion of other possible uses of digital methods for legal history.

The showcase is coupled with a set of hands-on workshops, each led by one of the showcase presenters and focused on the type of tool central to their project: text analysis; network analysis; mapping; and 3D modeling. The workshops will provide an opportunity for participants to get a taste of what is involved in turning ideas into digital projects. Asking how did you do that rapidly leads to asking how can I do that? The proposed workshops will not equip participants to create projects like those being showcased; they will use less powerful, free software accessible for those with no technical background. But we know from teaching digital history that actually working with a tool, rather than simply using and analyzing projects, helps immeasurably in understanding what is involved in digital scholarship. We expect that this workshop will help equip attendees to evaluate digital scholarship, whether for publication or at their own institutions, and acquaint them with the possibilities for doing such scholarship themselves.


  • 9.00 a.m. – 10.30 a.m. | Project Showcase Session #1 – O Say Can You See & The Lawyer’s Code
  • 10.30 a.m. – 10.45 a.m. | Break
  • 10.45 a. m. – 12.15 p. m. | Project Showcase Session #2 – Digital Harlem & Voices of Authority
  • 12.15 p.m. – 1.15 p.m. | Lunch
  • 1.15 p.m. – 3.00 p.m. | Concurrent Hands-on Workshops
  • 3.00 p.m. – 3.15 p.m. | Break
  • 3.15 p.m.  – 4.00 p.m. | Wrap-up and Next Steps


Osgoode Professional Development campus, 1 Dundas Street West, 26th floor

Questions? Please contact Stephen Robertson at srober30@gmu.edu.