Risa Goluboff

What Makes Hartog Hartog: Introduction to a Symposium on the Work of Dirk Hartog

Law & Social Inquiry


The essays in this symposium on the work of Dirk Hartog encompass meditations on legal positivism and the histories of slavery, civil rights, and women’s rights as well as con- temporary analyses of spousal abuse and the dependency of adult children. That wide range of subjects, approaches, and concerns might be puzzling were it not for the wide substantive, methodological, and theoretical range in Hartog’s own oeuvre. Hartog’s work has been so generative for other scholars because of his simultaneous engagement with history and law, with fact and theory, with the whole sweep of the nineteenth century and the most minute detail of a person’s life. In describing in this introduction what makes Hartog Hartog, I emphasize the unique blend of professional commitments and personal sensibilities he brings to his work: the sensitivity with which he approaches history; the humanity with which he treats his historical subjects; the dexterity with which he analyzes the law; and the sophistication with which his human and legal stories yield up jurisprudential insights. I also, respectfully, disagree with Hartog himself on the essence of his work. Where he laments that he exists in a “muddle in the middle”—writing histories of a problematic “inbetweenness”—I see him as making the messy lived reality of legal history cognizable to modern reader. His work reveals the simultaneity of multiple and overlapping legal regimes as they shaped and were shaped by the human needs of real people.


Risa Goluboff, What Makes Hartog Hartog: Introduction to a Symposium on the Work of Dirk Hartog, 44 Law & Social Inquiry 491-497 (2019).

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