Interdisciplinary UVA Symposium to Mark 100th Anniversary of Beard's 'An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution'

October 2, 2013

Charles BeardThe University of Virginia School of Law and the Miller Center are hosting a day-long interdisciplinary symposium on Oct. 24 to honor the 100th anniversary of the publication of Charles Beard's seminal work, "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States." Scholars attending the symposium at the Miller Center will reflect on the book's continuing relevance and legacy.

In 1913, Charles Beard famously upended traditional scholarship on the Constitution when he proposed that it should be understood not as a sacred text or one expounding upon important principles, but rather as the product of the economic interests of the men who framed it. In the decades that followed, even as scholars disputed its tenets, Beard's work remained foundational.

"It's really a prerequisite for discussing not only the origins of the Constitution, but political and legal behavior in general. Beard's work remains one of the most important books of the 20th century," said UVA Law associate professor Jessica Lowe, who helped organize the conference along with visiting professor Mark Graber of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Scholars from history, political science, law and related fields will attend the event, which is open to the public. To attend the lunch, RSVP to

Schedule: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013
The conference will take place in the Miller Center's Galbraith Forum Room.

10 a.m.

Panel 1: "Beard in Context"

  • Moderator: Charles McCurdy (UVA/law and history)
  • Comment: Clyde Barrow (University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth/public policy)
  • Jonathan Gienapp (University of Mississippi/history): "Charles Beard's Forgotten Historicism"
  • Ajay Mehrotra (Indiana University/law and history): "Charles Beard and the Columbia School of Political Economy: Recovering the Intellectual Roots of the Beardian Thesis"
  • Richard Drake (University of Montana/history): "Charles Beard and the English Historians."
11:45 a.m.-12 p.m.
12-1:30 p.m.
Lunch - RSVP to
"Beard and Holmes on Constitutional Adjudication" with Adrian Vermeule (Harvard Law School)
  • Comment: Hank Chambers (University of Richmond/law)
1:30-2 p.m.
2-3:45 p.m.
Panel 2: "Beardian Approaches to Politics and History"
  • Moderator: Risa Goluboff (UVA/law and history)
  • Comment: Melvin Urofksy (Virginia Commonwealth University/history)
  • Michael Caires (UVA/history): "Rethinking the Second American Revolution: Legal Tender and National Banking in the Civil War Era"
  • Stephen Feldman (Wyoming/law and political science): "The Interpretation of Constitutional History, or Charles Beard Becomes a Fortuneteller (With an Emphasis on Free Expression)"
  • Mariah Zeisberg (University of Michigan/political science): "Economic Pluralism and Constitutional Discourse"
3:45-4 p.m.
4-5:45 p.m.
Plenary Panel: "Beard and the Founding"
  • Moderator: Mark Graber
  • Comment: G. Edward White (UVA/law and history)
  • Mary Anne Case (University of Chicago/law): "The Ladies? Forget About Them. A Feminist Perspective on the Limits of Originalism"
  • Saul Cornell (Fordham University/history): "Progressives, Originalists, and Pragmatists: Rethinking the Problem of Class in American Constitutional Theory"
  • Bartholomew Sparrow (University of Texas/government) and Shannon Bow O'Brien (University of Texas/government): "Pulling Punches: Beard, the Propertyless in Colonial America, and the Founding"


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