Professor Mary Sarah Bilder teaches in the areas of property, trusts and estates,
and American legal and constitutional history at Boston College Law School. She received
her B.A. with Honors (English) and the Dean’s Prize from the University of Wisconsin at
Madison, her J.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Law School, and her A.M. (History) and
Ph.D. from Harvard University in the History of American Civilization/American Studies.
She was a law clerk to the Hon. Francis Murnaghan, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth
Circuit. Her recent work has focused on the history of the Constitution, James Madison
and the Founders, the history of judicial review, and colonial and founding era
constitutionalism. She was the Lucy G. Moses Visiting Professor at Columbia Law School in
2001 and was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School in the spring of 2008. Professor
Bilder is a member of the American Law Institute, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts,
the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. She is
member of the Massachusetts Bar Association (inactive status) and the State Bar of
Wisconsin (inactive status). She was given the Emil Slizewski Faculty Teaching Award in
2007 and was named Michael and Helen Lee Distinguished Scholar in 2009. Her most recent
book, Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention, is now available for
pre-order from Harvard University Press. Richard Beeman, author of Our Lives, Our
Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor, called it "an exceptionally important piece of work
that will have a profound impact on all future work on the Constitutional

She is the author of The Transatlantic Constitution: Colonial Legal Culture and the
Empire (Harvard University Press, 2004), awarded the Littleton-Griswold Award from the
American Historical Association. Her articles appear in several important collected
volumes of essays and a wide variety of journals, including the Yale Law Journal, the
Stanford Law Review, the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, the George Washington
Law Review, Law and History Review, Law Library Journal, and the Journal of Policy
History. She co-edited Blackstone in America: Selected Essays of Kathryn Preyer
(Cambridge University Press, 2009). 

She has received a William Nelson Cromwell Foundation Grant, the Boston College Annual
Prize for Scholarship, a Boston College Distinguished Research Award, a Mellon Fellowship
in the Humanities, and was a Boston College Law School Fund Scholar. She currently serves
on the Editorial Board of Law and History Review, and The Journal of Legal Education, the
Board of The New England Quarterly, and is a member of the American Law Institute, the
Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. 

Professor Bilder is the author of a renowned blog entry on how to teach the Rule Against
Perpetuities in one class hour, has been interviewed by The Documentary Group and History
Channel, and served as a legal history consultant to Steven Spielberg on Amistad. 



Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (2015)

Now available for pre-order.

James Madison’s Notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention have acquired nearly...



Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies: An Annotated Digital Catalogue (with Sharon H. O'Connor) (2014)

In recognition of the three-hundred anniversary of the accession of George I, the Ames Foundation...



Blackstone in America: Selected Essays of Kathryn Preyer (with Maeva Marcus and R. Kent Newmyer) (2009)

Reviews: "...a book that should be put before every beginning student of American constitutional and...



The Transatlantic Constitution: Colonial Legal Culture and the Empire (2004)

The Transatlantic Constitution makes a major impact on the way we see the legacy of...


Contributions to Books


Colonial Constitutionalism and Constitutional Law, Transformations in American Legal History: Essays in Honor of Morton J. Horwitz (2009)

This essay reconsiders the transformation of colonial constitutionalism to Constitutional Law. The transformation of constitutional...



The Colonial Period: The Sources of Colonial Law, The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (2009)



How Bad Were the Official Records of the Federal Convention?, The George Washington Law Review (2012)

The official records of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 have been neglected and dismissed by...



Appeals to the Privy Council Before American Independence: An Annotated Digital Catalogue (with Sharon Hamby O'Connor), Law Library Journal (2012)

Between the later seventeenth century and American independence, appeals from colonial high courts were taken...



Expounding the Law: Law and Judicial Duty, The George Washington Law Review (2010)

Written as a comment on Philip Hamburger's book, Law and Judicial Duty, this essay explains...



James Madison, Law Student and Demi-Lawyer, Law and History Review (2010)

We think of James Madison as a political theorist, legislative drafter, and constitutional interpreter. Recent...



Blackstone in America, Boston College Law School Lectures and Presentations (2010)

Remarks delivered at Rethinking the History of Early American Law: Kathryn Preyer's Blackstone in America,...


Selected Professional Activities

The Judiciary and Its Development through the Perspective of Founder James Madison, FJC Judges Workshop and Second Circuit Judicial Conference (2015)
Madison's Hand, James Madison and the Constitutional Convention, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford (2015)

Also presented at the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution, Montpelier, VA in May...

Madison's Notes, Constitutional History Seminar, Georgetown University Law School (2015)
The London Book Trade and the Making of Irish, Scottish, and American Literature: A lunch talk with Joseph Rezek, Boston University (2014)

Respondent to a presentation by Joseph Rezek:

Joseph Rezek, Assistant Professor of English, will discuss...

Panelist, The Future of the American Revolution, Colonial Society of Massachusetts (2014)



The Transatlantic Constitution: Colonial Legal Culture and the Empire, Boston College Law School Faculty Papers (2005)

Departing from traditional approaches to colonial legal history, Mary Sarah Bilder argues that American law...