Miller Center

Clara Altman

History, Brandeis University

Courtroom Colonialism: Philippine Law and U.S. Rule, 1898-1935

Altman photo

Clara Altman is the Director of the Federal Judicial History Office at the Federal Judicial Center.

In that capacity, she works to promote the preservation of the history of the federal courts and the federal judiciary in a variety of ways.  In particular, the Federal Judicial History Office develops programs relating to the history of the judicial branch and assists federal courts with their own judicial history programs.

Altman earned a B.A. in History and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis, a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, and a Ph.D. in American History from Brandeis University.  She was previously a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College.  Her scholarly work concerns legal history and the U.S. in the world with a focus on U.S. engagement with foreign legal cultures and institutions from the nineteenth century to the present. Her dissertation, “Courtroom Colonialism: Philippine Law and U.S. Rule, 1898-1935” is a historical account of the development of the Philippine legal system under U.S. rule between the occupation of the islands and the start of the Philippine Commonwealth.  The project was based in archival research in English and Spanish language sources in the Philippines and the United States and was supported by grants from the American Historical Association, Bentley Library at the University of Michigan, and the Mellon Foundation, in addition to the Miller Center. Altman has also written on the state of the field of legal history.  In her chapter, “The International Context: An Imperial Perspective on American Legal History,” in A Companion to American Legal History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) Altman proposes a new, global framework for the field, emanating from three categories of analysis: the constitutional order, the international order, and what some scholars have called “legal borderlands."

Fellowship year: 2013

Mentor: Mary Dudziak, Emory University

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