Sociology, Department of


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Hill, Michael R. 1991. “Roscoe Pound and Academic Community on the Great Plains: The Interactional Origins of American Sociological Jurisprudence at the University of Nebraska, 1900-1907.” Paper presented to the University of Nebraska Center for Great Plains Studies Interdisciplinary Symposium on “Law, the Bill of Rights, and the Great Plains,” Lincoln, Nebraska.


Copyright 1991 Michael R. Hill


The turn-of-the-century academic community at the University of Nebraska differed sharply from today's highly stratified, bureaucratized, multiversity setting. The campus, the student body, and the instructional staff were, of course, considerably smaller in number than now. But, beyond this obvious demographic observation, there was a pioneering spirit and a sense of scholarly community that fostered remarkable intellectual creativity. In particular, the Nebraska campus provided the collegial setting from which Roscoe Pound's American version of sociological jurisprudence sprang forth in a resounding critique of the U.S. legal establishment at the 1906 meetings of the American Bar Association (cf., Pound 1906; Harding 1957; Wigdor 1974). The theme of my discussion today is that Pound's productive experience at Nebraska was not idiosyncratic, but was the synergistic product of superior individual capabilities intersecting in a social and organizational milieu that structurally facilitated significant scholarship. This is not to claim that Nebraska was the Great Plains equal of Harvard, but I do hold that Nebraska's pioneering scholars embraced a series of interrelated organizational forms and interactional patterns that actively fostered -- much more than we do today -- the spirit of intellectual excellence and inquiry such as flowered in Roscoe Pound's outstanding interdisciplinary work not only as a jurist (see, for example, Pound 1904, 1959; Setaro 1942; Strait 1960; Glueck 1964; Wigdor 1974), but also as a botanist (see, for example, Pound and Clements 1898; Tobey 1981; Hill 1988d, 1989c: 189-249) and a sociologist (see, for example, Pound 1904, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1945; Hill 1989c, 1989d).