Law and History Review

Applied Legal History

Introducing Applied Legal History

Alfred L. Brophy 

James Oldham and Su Jin Kim write about the acceptance of arbitration in the early United States in their article, “Arbitration in America: The Early History.” They correct a misperception that stretches back at least to Justice Joseph Story's 1844 opinion in Tobey v. Bristol that said equity did not enforce arbitration awards. Oldham and Kim recover a robust culture of arbitration in the early United States and thus correct the received wisdom, which led Justice Kennedy to remark in 2001 that American courts were historically hostile to arbitration. Perhaps this newly recovered history will add support for the acceptance of arbitration in the federal courts. Oldham's and Kim's article is, therefore, part of an emerging and sometimes controversial trend in legal history to speak to contemporary issues. It is also the first of an occasional series for Law and History Review on “applied legal history.”


Alfred L. Brophy is the Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill <>. He thanks Mary Sarah Bilder, Saul Cornell, Elizabeth Dale, Julian Mortenson, Dana A. Remus, David Tanenhaus, and Karen Tani for help with this article.