Title: Reflecting on Two Years at the Baldy Center
By: Daniel Platt, PhD, Baldy Center Postdoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Legal Studies, 2018-2020
Baldy Center Postdoctoral Fellows are highly promising scholars from a variety of disciplines who have completed their Ph.D.s and/or J.D.s at other universities, but have not yet commenced tenure track positions. Chosen in an extremely competitive process, they carry out their scholarly projects with the full array of UB research resources and participate in Baldy Center talks, discussions, workshops, and conferences. Daniel Platt recently completed a two-year Baldy Center postdoctoral position.
The Baldy Center allowed me to advance my research agenda and broaden my knowledge of law and legal culture over two wonderful years. I came to UB shortly after defending my dissertation in the Department of American Studies at Brown University in 2018. The dissertation dealt with debtor-creditor relations in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century and the moral problems of failure and insolvency. In my first year at the Baldy Center, I developed a journal article out of some of this material relating to gender and household debt. In particular, the piece considered homestead exemption laws and the meaning of the requirement that wives consent to mortgages that imperiled the family dwelling. I workshopped the article at the annual meeting of the American Society for Legal History in Houston and at UB Faculty Workshop and then submitted it to History of the Present. It was accepted and was published this past fall. Also, in my first year, I developed a manuscript proposal for a book based on my dissertation and submitted it to several university presses. It received multiple offers and is now under contract with University of Chicago Press. Finally, relating to my longstanding interest in the history of antisemitism, in the winter of 2019 I assembled and contributed to a panel discussion on the US. Intellectual History Blog on antisemitism in the United States.
In my second year at UB, I was mostly engaged with manuscript work. I wrote two original chapters for the project that were not contained in the dissertation—one on the abolition of imprisonment for debt in the mid nineteenth century and one on debt and coverture reform in the late nineteenth century. I also started to sift through some material on stay laws and the governance of financial time, which gave rise to a conference paper that I shared at ClassCrits XII and the Law, Culture, and the Humanities Annual Meeting. I was scheduled to present this at the Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting as well, on a panel on “Capital in the Nineteenth Century,” but the conference was canceled due to the pandemic. Later in the year, I accepted an appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Legal Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, where I will join my former Baldy Center colleague Amanda Hughett. I will teach courses in legal history, law and the humanities, and law and political economy. This is a position I would not have been able to take without the rich knowledge of legal studies scholarship that I acquired in my two years at the Baldy Center—in the Advanced Seminar in Law and Society, in regular faculty workshops, in special events with visiting scholars, and in countless conversations with UB faculty and fellows.