Professor VanderVelde heads research project about the American frontier

Lea VanderVelde, the Josephine R. Witte Professor of Law and a Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies, is now principal investigator of The Law of the Antebellum Frontier project, which is part of The Spatial History Project at Stanford University.

This collaborative project seeks to digitally analyze the legal and economic mechanisms at work on the American frontier or the early 1800s. Understanding these mechanisms reflects upon how empires expand and how American expansion shaped American identity and the constitutional amendments after the civil war.

The project’s investigators will integrate four components into their research: “Sovereignty: The Movie,” Geolocation of St. Louis in the 1840s, Social Networking in the Frontier’s Global Business: The Fur Trade, and Text Mining for Themes of Note in Early America.

“We are inventing an entirely new field in digital legal history with these four projects, as well as producing findings, and asking questions that legal historians have never framed before,” says Vandervelde. She is planning to write an essay on the meanings and significance of this new field.

Professor VanderVelde has been conducting research in this field for the past 15 years. To learn more about the project, visit: