Significance: Warren was a pioneering historian of American law, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his history of the Supreme Court.
Warren enjoyed two successful, parallel careers. He was a respected attorney, political activist, and government official as well as an illustrious legal scholar and constitutional historian. After Harvard Law School and admission to the bar in 1892, he entered practice in Boston. He rose in state Democratic Party circles and, in 1905, was appointed chair of the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, serving until 1911. Woodrow Wilson named him assistant attorney general weeks before the outbreak of the war in Europe. Warren became an authority on the law of neutrality and other wartime issues. In this connection, he argued more than three dozen cases before the Supreme Court. With the return of the Democrats in the 1930's, Warren became a consultant to the State Department on matters of neutrality and the presidential prerogative in foreign policy. Meanwhile, Warren was steadily developing a reputation for his work as a sound and productive scholar of U.S. constitutional law. In addition to articles and short stories, he published History of the Harvard Law School and Early Legal Conditions in America (1909) in three volumes and History of the American Bar, Colonial and Federal, to 1860 (1911). Warren will be longest remembered, however, for his three-volume Supreme Court in United States History (1922), a widely lauded work that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. That study, he maintained, was not intended to be a dry exposition of constitutional law, field by field, in light of particular Supreme Court decisions. Instead, he attempted to place the Court's deliberations and decisions, term by term, within the living contexts of the nation's dynamic social life and dramatic political debates. Warren's knowledge of constitutional law was widely respected, and his articles were occasionally cited in Court opinions.