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William Novak


Office Location(s): 311 Hutchins Hall
Phone: 734.763.9857

  • Affiliation(s)
    • Law School
  • Fields of Study
    • Legal, political, and intellectual history of the United States
  • About


    Prof. Bill Novak, an award-winning legal scholar and historian, joined the Law School Faculty in fall 2009. He holds an untenured appointment in the Department of History. Prof. Novak comes from the University of Chicago, where he has been an associate professor of history, a founding member of the university's Human Rights Program and Law, Letters, and Society Program, and director of its Center for Comparative Legal History. Since 2000, Prof. Novak has been a research professor at the American Bar Foundation. In 1996, he published The People's Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America, which won the American Historical Association’s Littleton-Griswold Prize and was named Best Book in the History of Law and Society. A specialist on the legal, political, and intellectual history of the United States, Prof. Novak earned his Ph. D. in the History of American Civilization from Brandeis University in 1991. He was a visiting faculty member at Michigan Law School during fall 2007, when he taught courses in U.S. Legal History and Legislation. Prof. Novak is currently at work on The People’s Government: Law and the Creation of the Modern American State, a study of the transformation in American liberal governance around the turn of the twentieth century.

    Selected Publications:

    "AHR Exchange: Long Live the Myth of the Weak State? A Reponse to Adams, Gerstle, and Witt." Am. Hist. Rev. 115 (2010): 792-800.

    "Public-Private Governance: A Historical Introduction." In Government by Contract: Outsourcing and American Democracy, edited by J. Freeman and M. Minow, 23-40. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 2009.

    "A State of Legislatures." Polity 40, no. 3 (2008): 340-47.

    "Police Power and the Hidden Transformation of the American State." In Police Power and the Liberal State, edited by M.D. Dubber and M. Valverde, 54-73. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 2008.

    "The Myth of the 'Weak' American State." Am. Hist. Rev. 113, no. 3 (2008): 752-72.

    "The American Law of Association: The Legal-Political Construction of Civil Society." In Analyzing Law's Reach: Empirical Research on Law and Society, 493-539. Chicago, IL: American Bar Association, 2008. (Published under the same title in Studies in American Political Development 15, no. 2 (2001): 163-188.)

    "The Not-So-Strange-Birth of the Modern American State: A Comment on James A. Henretta's 'Charles Evans Hughes and the Strange Death of Liberal America'." Law & Hist. Rev. 24, no. 1 (2006): 193-9.

  • Education
    • Ph.D. Brandeis University, 1991