Alumni (National Fellow)

Emily Prifogle

Jefferson Scholars Foundation National Fellow
Fountaintown, Indiana
B.A. Indiana University (2008)
M.S. University of Oxford (2009)
J.D. University of California (2012)
M.A. Princeton University (2014)
Ph.D. Princeton University (2019)
Dream Mentor:
Barbara Welke
University of Minnesota
Fields of Interest:
Gender History
Legal History
Social History
Urban History


Emily Prifogle is a social and legal historian of rural communities and Faculty Fellow at the University of Michigan Law School. Prifogle is currently working on her book project, which argues that the legal remaking of rural communities was a central feature of 20th-century America. The project utilizes case studies to examine critical topics such as land use and zoning, policing and prosecution, education equality, labor and economic opportunity, local community organizing and advocacy, and infrastructure and mobility—and reveals their manifestations in rural geographies, economies, and social norms. The result is a new legal history that tells a story of the rural Midwest in a constant process of transformation along lines of class, race, and gender in the 20th century.

Emily is a former associate blogger for the Legal History Blog and current advisory board member and co-founder of WomenAlsoKnowHistory.com. Before completing her Ph.D. in history at Princeton, she received an M.Sc. in comparative social policy from Oxford and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She also clerked for Judge David Hamilton on the Seventh Circuit. Her interdisciplinary background continues to inform her scholarship and interest in public history.

Thesis Description:

Cows, Cars, and Criminals: Rural Communities, Law, and Nation in the Twentieth Century
Emily Prifogle’s dissertation, “Cows, Cars, and Criminals: Rural Communities, Law, and Nation in the Twentieth Century,” applies the methods of urban history to investigate rural communities as unique social and legal spaces. Using a series of case studies from several Midwestern states, including Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the dissertation argues that while national legal and political culture shifted away from rural communities in the twentieth century, rural Americans continued to express rural-based values and social norms through their use, manipulation, resistance, and understanding of the law, making the process of legally constituting the rural a central feature of twentieth-century America.

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