Professor Susanna Blumenthal

Susanna Blumenthal

  • William Prosser Professor of Law and Professor of History
  • Co-Director of the Program in Law and History
436 Mondale Hall


  • Harvard-Radcliffe College, A.B.
  • Yale University, Ph.D., J.D.


  • American Legal History
  • Criminal Law
  • Legal History

Professor Susanna Blumenthal is a scholar of American legal history whose research and writing focuses on the historical relationship between law and the human sciences. She is the author of Law and the Modern Mind: Consciousness and Responsibility in American Legal Culture (Harvard University Press, 2016) as well as numerous essays and law review articles, appearing in Harvard Law Review, UCLA Law Review, and Law and History Review. Her current book project, The Apprehension of Fraud, explores the role of law in policing the ambiguous borderland between capitalism and crime in nineteenth-century America. Professor Blumenthal received an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to support her research and was a Sargent-Faull Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (2003-2004) as well as a Fellow in the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University (2009-2010). She co-directs the Program in Law and History at the University of Minnesota, where she was appointed the John K. & Elsie Lampert Fesler Fellow (2007-2008) and is a member of the faculty in both the Law School and the History Department.

Professor Blumenthal is a graduate of Yale Law School and Harvard College and she holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University, where her dissertation was awarded the George Washington Egleston Prize. Her doctoral work was also supported by a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in Legal History from New York University School of Law. Before entering the academy, she served as law clerk to Judge Kimba M. Wood of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Legal History Workshop

Criminal Law

Abolition and the Carceral State

American Legal History

Works in Progress

Apprehension of Fraud in Nineteenth-Century American Law (book in progress)
Domesticity and Distrust: Discerning Deceit in the Nineteenth-Century Courtroom (article in progress)


Law and the Modern Mind: Consciousness and Responsibility in American Legal Culture (Harvard University Press, 2016)

Journal Articles

Seeing Like an Anti-Fraud State, 40 Law and History Review 855 (2022) (review essay) (reviewing Edward Balleisen, Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff (Princeton University Press 2018))
How Not to Train Your Dragon, or Living Dangerously in the Law, 70 Stanford Law Review 1625 (2018)
Making Historical Sense of Responsibility, 4 Critical Analysis of Law 199-210 (2017) (review essay) (reviewing Nicola Lacey, In Search of Criminal Responsibility (Oxford University Press, 2016))
Humbug: Toward a Legal History, 64 Buffalo Law Review 161-192 (2016)
Of Mandarins, Legal Consciousness, and the Cultural Turn in US Legal History: Robert W. Gordon. 1984. Critical Legal Histories. Stanford Law Review 36:57-125, 37 Law & Social Inquiry 167-186 (2012) (review essay)
Metaphysics, Moral Sense, and the Pragmatism of the Law, 26 Law and History Review 177-185 (2008)
The Mind of the Moral Agent: Scottish Common Sense and the Problem of Responsibility in Nineteenth-Century American Law, 26 Law and History Review 99-159 (2008)
The Default Legal Person, 54 UCLA Law Review 1135-1265 (2007)
The Deviance of the Will: Policing the Bounds of Testamentary Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America, 119 Harvard Law Review 959-1034 (2006)
Law and the Creative Mind, 74 Chicago-Kent Law Review 151-228 (1998)
"The Tempest in My Mind": Cultural Interfaces between Psychiatry and Literature, 1844-1900, 31 Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 3-34 (1995)

Book Chapters

Positivism’s Humbugs: Criminology and Its Cranks in Progressive America, in The Limits of Criminological Positivism: The Movement for Criminal Law Reform in the West, 1870-1940 196 (Michele Pifferi, ed., Routledge, 2022)
Counterfeiting Confidence: The Problem of Trust in the Age of Contract, in Power, Prose, and Purse: Law, Literature, and Economic Transformations 15 (Alison LaCroix, Saul Levmore & Martha C. Nussbaum, eds., Oxford University Press, 2019)
The Legal Person: Tracing the History of a Forensic Fiction, in The Routledge Research Companion to Law and Humanities in Nineteenth-Century America 96 (Nan Goodman & Simon Stern, eds., Routledge, 2017)
A Mania for Accumulation: The Plea of Moral Insanity in Gilded Age Will Contests, in Making Legal History: Essays in Honor of William E. Nelson 181 ( Daniel J. Hulsebosch & R. B. Bernstein, eds., New York University Press, 2013)
"Death by His Own Hand": Accounting for Suicide in Nineteenth-Century Life Insurance Litigation, in Subjects of Responsibility: Framing Personhood in Modern Bureaucracies 98 (Andrew Parker, Austin Sarat & Martha Merrill Umphrey, eds., Fordham University Press, 2011)

Book Reviews

Book Review, 113 Isis 666 (2022) (reviewing Courtney E. Thompson, An Organ of Murder: Crime, Violence, and Phrenology in Nineteenth-Century America (Rutgers University Press, 2020))
Book Review, 95 Journal of American History 233 (2008) (reviewing Ken Adler, The Lie Detectors: The History of an American Obsession (Free Press, 2007))