Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
University of Chicago; American Bar Foundation
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History of the corporation, legal history, history of capitalism, history of the long Nineteenth Century, history of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, tort law, constitutional law, corporate responsibility
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Personal Info

About Me

Evelyn Atkinson is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Law, Letters, & Society at the University of Chicago.

Her book manuscript, under contract with Columbia University Press, is entitled American Frankenstein: A History of the Constitutional Corporate Person in the Nineteenth Century. Combining legal, social, and economic history, the book illuminates how, from the early years of the new republic, farmers, merchants, and others who dealt with corporations in their daily lives attempted to enforce a vision of popular sovereignty that included extensive public oversight of business corporations. These local movements for control of corporations, the book reveals, resulted in seminal legal cases that granted corporations constitutional rights, and shaped ongoing conflicts over the nature of democracy, economic justice, and the relationship of corporations to the state and the public.

Importantly, Evelyn’s work breaks new ground by combining histories of the rights revolution of the 19th century, particularly involving race, with the history of corporate constitutional rights-claiming.  She reveals that corporations were integral players in debates over the meaning of legal personhood and citizenship, impacting the law for “natural” persons, including racial minorities, as well as corporations.  This strand of her scholarship is highlighted in her article “Frankenstein’s Baby: The Forgotten History of Corporations, Race, and Equal Protection” (Virginia Law Review, 2022).

In addition to constitutional legal history, Evelyn’s research also focuses on the role of corporate personhood in tort law.  Her article, “Telegraph Torts: The Lost Lineage of the Public Service Corporation” (Michigan Law Review, 2023), examines the role of popular demands for corporation’s emotional responsibility to the public in the context of the emerging category of the public utility corporation at the turn of the 20th century, highlighting implications for contemporary regulation of social media companies.  This article won the Kathryn T. Preyer Award from the American Society for Legal History.

Evelyn is the recipient of the Fishel-Calhoun Article Prize from the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, as well as the Graduate Student Paper Competition Prize from the Journal of Law & Social Inquiry, for her article, “The Burden of Taking Care: Attractive Nuisance Lawsuits and the Safety First Movement.”  Her scholarship has also been published in the Journal of Law & Social Inquiry, the Law and History Review, the Yale Journal of Law & Humanities, and the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.

Evelyn received her Ph.D in History from the University of Chicago, her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, and her B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College.

Recent Publications

—Book review. “Kevin Butterfield, The Making of Tocqueville’s America: Law and Association in the Early United States.” Law and History Review 35, no. 1 (Feb. 2017): 261–63.

—”Out of the Household: Master-Servant Relations and Employer Liability Law.” Yale Journal of Law & Humanities 25, no. 2 (Sum. 2013).

Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, 20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
Capitalism, Economic History, Emancipation, Gender, Law, Local & Regional, Politics, Race, Rebellion & Revolution, Sexual Violence, Slavery, Women