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H. Robert Baker

Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2004
phone: 404-413-6361

Robert Baker is a constitutional and legal historian, interested primarily in how contests over disputed meanings of the U.S. Constitution are negotiated and resolved. His first book, The Rescue of Joshua Glover: A Fugitive Slave, the Constitution, and the Coming of the Civil War was published in 2006 and detailed the resistance of Wisconsinites to the Fugitive Slave Act in the 1850s. His second book, Prigg v. Pennsylvania: The Supreme Court, Slavery, and the Ambivalent Constitution details the long history of the fugitive slave clause from its origins in American colonial law to the Civil War. This book rejects the notion that the Constitution was inherently proslavery or antislavery and instead demonstrates how various interpretations changed over time depending on the political will and legal reasoning of legislators and judges. Baker’s current work explores the use of historical narrative in justifying particular understandings of the U.S. Constitution.

Baker currently teaches the U.S. Survey (2110), U.S. Legal and Constitutional History (4470), Bills of Rights (4460), and History of the American West (4400). At the graduate level he teaches Legal and Constitutional History (8035), Issues and Interpretations in U.S. History (7010), and the Research Seminar (7060). Beginning in Spring 2013, he will co-teach a course with Professor Ryan Rowberry in the School of Law on Anglo-American Legal History.

Selected Publications

Prigg v. Pennsylvania: Slavery, the Supreme Court, and the Ambivalent Constitution.  Lawrence: The University of Kansas Press, forthcoming (October, 2012).

The Rescue of Joshua Glover: A Fugitive Slave, the Constitution, and the Coming of the Civil War. Athens: The Ohio University Press, 2006. Paperback edition, January, 2008.
Winner of the Gambrinus Prize, Milwaukee County Historical Society, 2007.

“Digging Through the Lynde Family Papers,” Milwaukee History: The Magazine of the Milwaukee County Historical Society 26 (Spring-Summer 2003): 8-11.

“Creating Order in the Wilderness: Transplanting the English Law to Rupert’s Land,” Law and History Review, 17 (Summer 1999): 209-246.