United States social and political history, with special interests in legal history, urban history, the politics of criminal justice and public health, and the Progressive Era (1890-1920).
Michael Willrich has been a member of the Brandeis faculty since 1999. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on American political and legal history (from the colonial period to the present), crime and punishment, social politics and the origins of the welfare state, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and the literature of American history.
Willrich's research explores the many ways that ordinary Americans experienced, conceptualized, and shaped the increasingly powerful state that emerged with the rise of a new urban-industrial society during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Willrich's first book, CITY OF COURTS: SOCIALIZING JUSTICE IN PROGRESSIVE ERA CHICAGO, traced the rise of radical new ideas about the social causes of crime in modern industrial cities and the new institutions of law and liberal governance that those ideas helped bring into being.
His second book, POX: AN AMERICAN HISTORY tells the story of the great wave of smallpox epidemics that struck America and its overseas territories around the turn of the twentieth century, spurring the growth of modern public health authority, and engendering widespread social and legal opposition to the government policy of compulsory vaccination.
At present, Willrich is working on two projects: a political history of sports in the United States, and a post-frontier history of Americans who have strived to live "off the grid."
Willrich's writings have appeared in The Journal of American History, Law and History Review, the Journal of Policy History, The Journal of Urban History, The New York Times, The Washington Monthly, The New Republic, Mother Jones, and The Washington City Paper.
University of Chicago, Ph.D.
University of Chicago, M.A.
Yale University, B.A.
Awards and Honors
William H. Welch Medal, American Association for the History of Medicine (for Pox) (2013)
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011 (for Pox) (2012)
Finalist, Mark Lynton History Prize (for Pox) (2012)
Lawrence W. Levine Award, Organization of American Historians (for Pox) (2012)
A New Yorker Favorite Nonfiction Book for 2011 (for Pox) (2011)
Dean's Award for Outstanding Mentoring of Students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 2011 (2011)
Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lectureship Program, 2007-2010, 2010-2013. (2010)
Norman Award for Faculty Research and Creative Projects, Brandeis. (2009)
Named a Top Young Historian by George Mason Universitys History News Network (2005)
Norman Award for Faculty Research and Creative Projects (2005)
Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies (2004)
Residential Fellowship, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University (2004 - 2005)
William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Book Prize, American Society for Legal History (2004)
Bernstein Faculty Fellowship, Brandeis University (2003)
John H. Dunning Prize, American Historical Association (2003)
Mazer Award for research support, Brandeis University (2001 - 2002)
Biennial Prize, Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, for "the best published article treating any aspect of U.S. history in the period 1865-1917." (2000 - 2001)
American Bar Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Chicago (declined). (1999 - 2000)
Erwin C. Surrency Prize, for best article on law or constitutionalism, American Society for Legal History (1999 - 2000)
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the Newberry Library, Chicago (1999 - 2000)
National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend (1999)
|FYS||32b||Crime and Punishment in History|
|HIST||160a||American Legal History I|
|HIST||160b||American Legal History II|
|HIST||161b||American Political History|
|HIST||168b||America in the Progressive Era: 1890-1920|
|HIST||200b||Colloquium in American History|
|HIST||201a||Major Problems in American Legal History|
|HIST||205a||Social Politics in the Progressive Era|
|HIST||205b||Introduction to Doctoral Studies|