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Reed College History Professor Michael P. Breen Receives Grant to Support Study of Law and Lawyers in Early Modern Europe


A Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society will support Breen’s research on a new book, ’Priests of the Law’: Lawyers, Law & Social Change in Europe (1500-1800).


BreenPortland, OR (March 12, 2007) – Michael P. Breen, associate professor of history and humanities at Reed College, has been awarded a $4,000 Franklin Research Grant by the American Philosophical Society for work on his new book, ‘Priests of the Law’: Lawyers, Law & Social Change in Europe (1500-1800). The funds will support travel to libraries and archives in Europe.

In his first book, Law, City, and King: Legal Culture, Municipal Politics, and State Formation in Early Modern Dijon (University of Rochester Press, 2007), Breen explored the place of law in early modern French political culture. Building on this research, he is now examining the historical processes that made the law, legal institutions, and legal culture dominant features of Western European society.

Through an analysis of both published and manuscript sources—including lawyers’ manuals and handbooks; published legal briefs; accounts of trials, executions, and other writings; legal commentaries and reference works; and literary and theatrical depictions of lawyers and courts—Breen will highlight the ways in which lawyers helped create institutions and concepts that Europeans increasingly accepted as alternatives to other forms of social regulation and dispute resolution. The goal is to understand early modern European law as both a system of norms and a network of tribunals and specialists with a distinctive cultural outlook.

Since 1933 the American Philosophical Society has awarded small grants to scholars in order to support the cost of research leading to publication in all areas of knowledge. The Franklin program is particularly designed for noncommercial research, helping to meet the costs of travel to libraries and archives for research purposes; the purchase of microfilm, photocopies, or equivalent research materials; the costs associated with fieldwork; or laboratory research expenses. 

Breen, a member of the Reed faculty since 2000, earned a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an A.M. and Ph.D. from Brown University. Breen is a past recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship and the Fulbright Fellowship. He is the author of Law, City, and King: Legal Culture, Local Politics and State Formation in Early Modern Dijon (University of Rochester Press, 2007) and has contributed to journals and anthologies.