The American Historical Association (AHA) has announced that Professor Bill Novak’s newest book will receive its Littleton-Griswold Prize, awarded annually to “the best book in any subject on the history of American law and society.”

Novak is receiving the prize for New Democracy: The Creation of the Modern American State (Harvard University Press, 2022). His first book, The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in 19th Century America, won the same honor in 1997. 

The AHA is the largest professional organization of historians in the world, so for me it's quite wonderful for the work to get this kind of recognition from my peers.”

Bill Novak
Charles F. and Edith J. Clyne Professor of Law
 Professor Bill Novak’s latest book is receiving top honors from the American Historical Association.
Professor Bill Novak’s latest book is receiving top honors from the American Historical Association.

“Winning the Littleton-Griswold Prize a second time brought me right back to those early years when a very shaky, uncertain young historian was first struggling for relevance, employment, and tenure. It reminded me again how very lucky we all are to be at great academic institutions like Michigan Law, doing what we get to do,” Novak said.

New Democracy illustrates how the activist state of the New Deal started forming decades before the Franklin Roosevelt administration, demonstrating the deep roots of the modern American regulatory state. 

Novak sees tremendous relevance for the topic in today’s political discourse.

“The legal and democratic challenges of our early 21st century are different from those of the early 20th century,” Novak said. “But I believe we can still learn much from the critical, philosophically grounded anti-formalism at the heart of early American progressive commitments to substantive democracy and people’s welfare.”

The Littleton-Griswold Prize will be awarded at the AHA’s annual meeting in January. The association presents a number of prizes honoring exceptional books, distinguished teaching and mentoring in the classroom, public history, and other historical projects. This year’s finalists were selected from a field of more than 1,300 entries. 

Currently, Novak is working on a book that will cover the period of America’s founding, completing a historical trilogy. Novak, the Charles F. and Edith J. Clyne Professor of Law, teaches in the fields of legal history, legislation, and regulation.