Legal History Research at Hagley

Monday, September 17, 2018

This year a previous recipient of a Hagley library research grant, Laura Phillips Sawyer, published her book American Fair Trade: Proprietary Capitalism, Corporatism, and the 'New Competition,' 1890-1940 with Cambridge University. Sawyer, now an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, recently published two posts on the Legal History blog explaining how she relied on Hagley sources for her book, as well as other collections at Hagley that might be of interest to legal history scholars.

Her book, American Fair Trade, explores the contested meanings of the term "fair trade" from the late nineteenth century through the New Deal era. She traces how American business associations partnered with government officials to create codes of fair competition that regulated a variety of industrial sectors. Since these efforts often involved extensive cooperation among firms, codes of fair competition had to skirt around the American anti-trust tradition, and the legal rules that limited cooperation between competing firms. As Sawyer explains in her first post, much of this story unfolded in the meeting minutes of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in Hagley’s archives, as well as the transcripts in this collection of conversations over rules of competitions. The results often appeared as well in the Nation’s Business, the CCUS journal that Hagley has digitized.

To encourage legal historians to make use of Hagley collections in their research, Sawyer’s second post summarizes key collections that could be used to explore the interface of law and commerce. We hope that this publicity will bring more legal history researchers to Hagley!

Roger Horowitz is the Director of the Hagley Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at Hagley Museum and Library.