31 March 2010

CONFERENCE: The Impact of the Atlantic World on the 'Old Worlds' in Europe and Africa from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries

An international conference on 'The Impact of the Atlantic World on the 'Old Worlds' in Europe and Africa from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries' will take place in Nantes on 7-9 June 2010. I thought it might be of interest:

The Atlantic world, formed between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries, maintained tight relations with the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. Its specificity, however, lay in the conjunction of three interrelated phenomena whose entangled effects were not found elsewhere: European colonization, the slave trade, and racialized slavery. This symbiosis led to the formation of original new societies in the Americas, which differed from the European, African, and Native societies from which they were born. Moreover, the societies of origin in the “Old Worlds”, from which large numbers of people left for the Americas, were also forever changed in return.

If the new Atlantic history has benefited from an enthusiastic reception, it has also given rise to intense debate. One of the numerous criticisms, as voiced by Alison Games, is that the new historiographical current risks offering only “an expanded history of the colonial Americas.” In order to verify the relevance of the Atlantic paradigm, this conference seeks to reverse viewpoints by focusing on the transformations in Europe and Africa that resulted from their integration in trans-Atlantic dynamics. While the new Atlantic history has mostly been investigated by historians of the “New World”, and while specialists of North America clearly dominate the field, this conference seeks to reach out to historians of Africa and Europe in order to enlarge and enrich a still unexplored question. The goal is thus to gather together the whole community of historians potentially concerned with Atlantic history.

Since the Atlantic world was born of both European and African migrations, the conference will consider both continents together. Atlantic history begins with the Portuguese explorations along the coasts of West Africa from the outset of the fifteenth century. These travels led to the development of long-lasting phenomena: the beginning of the Atlantic African slave trade first to Europe then to the Americas, the creation of the big slave plantation model in the African islands like São Tomé before its transfer to the “New World”, and the formation of the first Creole societies in the Euro-African Atlantic world. However, Europe and Africa were not linked by the same imperial relations that united Europe and the Americas. The Atlantic slave trade developed precisely because the African kingdoms maintained their sovereignty. It is only from the middle of the nineteenth century that Europeans really began to colonize the interior of Africa, while the Atlantic slave trade was abolished everywhere. The comparison of the impact of the Atlantic world on Europe and on Africa will be one of the main questions of this conference.

Which Europe and Africa were affected by these transformations? No frontiers have been set a priori: the relative importance of the Atlantic world in geographical and social space with variable dimensions is another question that will to be explored during the conference. In addition, the inclusion of all social actors means that we will take into account individuals and groups from all social and ethnic backgrounds. One first series of interrogations will deal with the degree to which various Africans and Europeans’ lives were affected by the formation of an Atlantic world. Who was concerned by and who cared about the Atlantic world? Was the Atlantic world part of the social imagination of European and African populations and societies? Who had knowledge of it; what was the quality of that information; how did they acquire it? Who were the individuals and groups that had imperial and Atlantic interests?

In order to analyse all the possible transformations of Africa and Europe that resulted from interconnections developed in the Atlantic world, the conference intends to exclude no historical field from the collective reflection, including political, military, economic, social, religious, and cultural arenas. Of course, it will be impossible to exhaust all of these research inquiries: the conference only aims to raise new questions as to how an Atlanticist perspective reveals new perspectives on European and African history.

The conference also does not wish a priori to put aside old debates, such as the demographic impact of European and African migrations on areas of departure, the role of the slave trade and colonial trade in the launching of the industrial revolution, the effects of the slave trade on African economies, or the transformations of consumption in Europe and Africa, if they are renewed with original perspectives, through, for example, the comparison between Europe and Africa. In regard to the impact of trans-Atlantic exchanges on European and African economies, several gateways are conceivable, such as the conditions and effects of the marketing of one product (European or American in Africa / American or African in Europe), the complexity of trade circulations and networks through various scales of analysis, the interlope on European coasts, the rivalries between African states and European powers on African coasts, war not as a recurrent accident that disrupted Atlantic exchanges but as a means to restore trade balances and payments of the various colonial powers, etc.

As for the socio-cultural effects, papers might consider migrations of « Americans » from all backgrounds (the return of European migrants and the arrival of Natives, African slaves, and free people of color in Europe, as well as projects of colonization by former slaves and descendents of slaves in Africa), the slave trade to Europe, the settling of Europeans and the formation of Euro-African societies in Africa. It would also be very fruitful to consider the “New World” as a space of social experimentation for re-considering work, gender, and race on the other side of the Atlantic. Through a complex system of circulations back and forth, European and African societies were transformed by the development of racial ideologies and the racialization of political and social orders that went with the formation of an Atlantic world.

Finally, the conference will explore the nature of political relations linking Europe and Africa to the rest of the Atlantic world. Papers could re-consider, concepts of domination, empire, and the “colonial situation”, or trace the evolution over time of these political forms and systems, before, during, and after the era of revolutions. Since the emphasis is on the « Old Worlds », particular attention should be paid to imperial institutions, colonial lobbies, debates related to the colonies, slave trade, and slavery, and to the abolitionist movements in metropoles. The role of imperialism in the development of modern states in Europe and the transformations of African kingdoms with their integration in trans-Atlantic dynamics will also be of interest.

The conference organisers are Guy Saupin, CRHIA-Université de Nantes ( and Cécile Vidal, CENA-EHESS, Paris (

29 March 2010

Summer course for European Legal History

The 2010 Summer course for European Legal History of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt will take place 11-16 July. The director of the course will be prof.dr. Michele Luminati (Luzern). All Ph. D. students in legal history can apply. The application needs to be sent to before 15 May with a cv and a description of the doctoral research. The number of participants will be limited to about 20. The Ph. D. students present their work in a 20 minutes lecture in the morning (in either English, French, Italian, Spanish or German), whereas the afternoon is free for their own research in the (excellent) library of the Institute. For those participants who cannot get funding from their own institution, there is a possibility for asking a grant from the Institute covering travel and hotel costs.

For more information, contact Mrs. Nicole Pasakarnis

22 March 2010

Ius Commune Casebook on Western Legal Traditions

Note that Seán Patrick Donlan, Jan Hallebeek, Dirk Heirbaut, Aniceto Masferrer, and Remco Van Rhee, the current members of the Executive Committee of the European Society for Comparative Legal History (ESCLH), have agreed to edit a casebook on legal history for the Ius Commune Casebooks series.

This is a work-in-progress and a separate page will be created on the ESCLH site for future information.

Carolingian Canon Law

Nearly a month late, the following notice was lifted from the Legal History Blog:

A press release from the University of Kentucky, announcing the receipt by Abigail Firey, of Kentucky's history department, of an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship, has drawn my attention to the Carolingian Canon Law Project, which is described on its website thus:

The Carolingian Canon Law project is producing a searchable, electronic rendition of major works of Carolingian canon law, in a presentation that shows their relation to other works of canon law used by Carolingian jurists. This project maps the extent of variation in "standard" legal texts known to Carolingian jurists, and identifies particular points of variation. In addition to clarifying the textual history of medieval canon law, the project will provide historical and bibliographic annotation of several hundred canons used by jurists before, during, and after the Carolingian period.

The same press release notes that another member of Kentucky's department, Gretchen Starr-LeBeau, has won "a Philosophical Society Fellowship to continue her comparative study of early modern courts of the Inquisition in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Mexico." Professor Starr-LeBeau says of her research:

I really became interested in how those convicted in the Inquisition defended themselves and the strategies they used. . . . For my latest project, I'll be comparing court records throughout Spain, Venice, Lisbon and Mexico City.

18 March 2010


A symposium on ‘Mediterranean Legal Hybridity: Mixtures and Movements’ is being hosted by the Department of Civil Law of the Faculty of Law and the Mediterranean Institute, both of the University of Malta. It is organised in conjunction with Juris Diversitas.

The deadline for proposals is Monday, 29 March 2010.

Juris Diversitas aims to explore the boundaries (i) between legal and normative traditions and (ii) between comparative law and other disciplines. Our members will meet midday on Friday, 11 June 2010 for our Annual General Meeting. There will also be an informal roundtable discussion of research related to our themes and open to anyone attending the symposium.

The symposium will begin on the afternoon of Friday, 11 June 2010 with a plenary speech, but most papers will be presented on Saturday, 12 June 2010.

• Our primary theme is the investigation of legal and normative diversity across the Mediterranean.
• A secondary theme is the establishment of dialogue between comparative lawyers and other disciplines.

While our primary focus is on the region, we will consider any proposals on the mixtures and movements of state laws and other norms. Among others, anthropologists, geographers, historians, and sociologists are all encouraged to participate.

An excursion into Valletta or Mdina is also being planned for Sunday, 13 June 2010.

Those interested in making a presentation (twenty minutes long) should email Dr Seán Patrick Donlan ( by Monday, 29 March 2010 with a short (250 word) proposal.

Note that the conference fee is €100. Transportation and accommodation are not included. More details will follow shortly.

15 March 2010

Rencontres d'histoire du droit de la Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre

The “Rencontres d’histoire du droit de la Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre” were created in 2008-2009 by four young researchers in legal history, within the framework of the scientific mission of the House of the Belgian and Luxemburgish Students at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. Destined to be a meeting place for students and researchers, it seemed natural for the Residence to host a conference on legal history.

This year’s second edition of the conference will be devoted to the legal interactions between France and the Netherlands (in a broad sense: both Belgium and the Kingdom of the Netherlands), from the Middle Ages until the Modern Period. Researchers and Professors from both Belgium and France will intervene on Wednesday 12 May 2010.

The organization had established a definitive list of contributors (PDF) and would like to bring the event to your attention at this time, having regard to the practical aspects of the transfer to Paris (train/flight reservations). A definitive time schedule will be published later on.

For further information, please contact the organisation by e-mail.

Metger on Smith's Historical Jurisprudence

In case anyone missed it, the following post was lifted from the Legal History Blog:

Ernest Metzger, University of Glasgow School of Law, has posted Adam Smith's Historical Jurisprudence and the 'Method of the Civilians,” which was originally given at the “Smith in Glasgow" Conference, University of Glasgow, March 31-April 2, 2009. Here is the abstract:

Adam Smith lectured in jurisprudence at the University of Glasgow from 1751 to 1764, and various records of these lectures survive. Since Smith never completed a treatise on law, these records are the principal source for his theory of lawmaking. In his final year at Glasgow, Smith undertook to reorganize the course of lectures: he began with a series of lectures on “forms of government,” where formerly these lectures had fallen at the very end. He explained that his reorganized lectures followed the method of the civilians (i.e., contemporary writers on Roman law), and that this method was to be preferred.

This paper discusses Smith’s theory of lawmaking and seeks to explain why he undertook to reorganize his lectures. Some scholars have argued that Smith had a substantive reason for his decision, i.e., that the change was demanded by his developing theory of law. This paper, to the contrary, argues that his decision was far more innocent. He had occasionally sought to explain how certain laws came about by reference to the “ages of society.” This is the theory that societies tend to present themselves under the model of one of four ages, each age identifiable by a certain mode of subsistence. This “stadial theory,” however, though adequate to explain the genesis of a handful of rights, was inadequate to explain the genesis of most laws. For the latter, Smith used a more immediate cause: form of government. Yet exposition of this thesis was difficult when the lectures on government were postponed to the end. Smith’s decision to reorganize the course of lectures helped to cure the problem.

The method of the civilians, whom Smith claims to be following, is the method of contemporary institutional literature. Civilian works that were written to follow the order of Justinian’s Institutes began, as the Institutes began, with a discussion of government.

The article is available on SSRN here.

NOTICE: New Perspectives on Legal Pluralism - Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History

'New Perspectives on Legal Pluralism', a Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History held under the auspices of the Center for Renaissance Studies, will take place at the Newberry Library in Chicago on Friday, 23 April 2010. The symposium meets:

to discuss the comparative legal history of the Atlantic world in the period c1492 to 1815. Each year we offer a one-day conference that brings together law professors, historians, and social scientists to explore a particular topic in comparative legal history, broadly understood.

The site reads:

Colonialism enhanced legal pluralism. European, African, Asian, and American polities relied on layered and multi-centric systems of law, and their encounters generated new and often repeating patterns of jurisdictional politics. This widespread legal pluralism at times contributed to regional integration by making substantively different legal systems intelligible to travelers and merchants. It also posed challenges to imperial administration as subordinate authorities sought to establish, expand, or protect prerogatives to act independently of metropolitan sovereigns and courts. With recent scholarship establishing clearly the benefits of framing colonial law as jurisdictionally complex and unstable, opportunities are now in sight to push this perspective further in a number of directions.

One interesting set of problems involves questions about how conflicts over the prerogatives of delegated legal authorities to discipline and control subordinate or dependent populations related to the changing contours of imperial constitutions or ideologies of rule. Conference participants may explore the ways in which such figures as garrison commanders, plantation owners, ship captains, Company officials, missionaries, and others with some measure of legal authority positioned themselves in relation to both metropolitan and colonial law. Did they make innovative legal claims or exert influence on regional patterns? We invite investigations of the conditions under which such actors deferred to imperial authority, the sources they drew upon to defend their legal prerogatives, and the nature of their interactions with various courts. Other studies might consider the degree to which the politics of making and defending claims to semi-autonomous legal authority informed broader, even regional, political processes. As we bring such connections into sight, it may be possible to refine comparisons of the politics of legal pluralism in different parts of a colonial regime, or between the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean worlds.

A related theme focuses on the legal strategies of subordinate groups. Taking into account a framework of legal pluralism, scholars can move beyond the study of “resistance” to ask questions about the legal participation of formally subordinate groups—even some that were seemingly powerless before the law. Forum shopping, petitions for mercy, violence against magistrates, new genres of legal writing, maneuvers to escape indebtedness—these and other strategies had immediate and sometimes far-reaching institutional effects. In addition to tracing such connections, we might probe the formative influences on legal strategies. How did knowledge about law circulate? To what extent did information or stories about of the effectiveness of particular legal strategies carry across social strata, imperial divides, and oceans? How did legal actors imagine and describe plural legal orders? With attention to these and other, related topics, the conference seeks to open the study of legal pluralism to new approaches and insights.

Additional information, incuding the schedule, is available here. Note that attendance is free, but advance registration is required.

14 March 2010

REMINDER: European Society for Comparative Legal History Conference (Valencia, 5-6 July 2010)

The European Society for Comparative Legal History (ESCLH) inaugural conference, 'Law and Historical Development from a Comparative Perspective', will be held at the University of Valencia (Spain) on 5-6 July 2010.

Presentations should be in English and are welcome on any topic in comparative legal history.

Those interested in making a presentation or with additional questions should email Dr Seán Patrick Donlan ( by Monday, 15 March 2010 with a short (250 word) proposal.

Note that the conference fee is €100; transportation and accommodation are not included.

13 March 2010

REMINDER: XVIth Annual Forum of Young Legal Historians

The XVIth Annual Forum of Young Legal Historians is fast approaching.

The Forum is organised by the Association of Young Legal Historians and will be held at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt and the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt, Germany from 24-27 March 2010. This year's theme is 'Law on Stage'.

Additional information is available on the Forum website.

12 March 2010

NOTICE: Law As History: Theory and Method in Legal History

The Center in Law, Society and Culture and the School of Law of the University of California - Irvine is hosting Law As History: Theory and Method in Legal History. The schedule is as follows:

16 April
Welcome and Introduction: Catherine Fisk (Law, UC Irvine)

Session 1: Interactions – Law, Text, History
Chair Dirk Hartog (History, Princeton)

Speakers: Steven Wilf (Law, Connecticut), “Law/Text/Past”; Norman Spaulding (Law, Stanford), “On the Interdependence of Law, History and Memory”; Kunal Parker (Law, Miami), “Common Law Thought and the Problem of History”; Marianne Constable (Rhetoric, Berkeley), “‘In the Name of the Law’: Law as Claim to Justice”.

Commentator: Christopher Tomlins (Law, UC Irvine)

Session 2: Intersections – Law, History, Culture
Chair Ariela Gross (Law, USC)

Speakers: Peter Goodrich (Law, Cardozo), “Specters of Law: Why the History of the Legal Spectacle has not been Written”; Shai Lavi (Law, Tel Aviv), “Law as World: Secular History and Jewish Ritual in Nineteenth Century Germany”; Assaf Likhovski (Law, UCLA and Tel Aviv), “Chasing Ghosts: On Writing Cultural History of Tax Law”; Roger Berkowitz (Political Studies & Human Rights, Bard College), “History and the Noble Art of Lying”.

Commentator: John Comaroff (Anthropology, Chicago)

April 17th

Session 3: Interpretations – Law, Polity, Economy
Chair: Risa Goluboff (Law, Virginia)

Speakers: Ritu Birla (History, Toronto), “Law as Economy: Convention, Corporation, Currency”; Roy Kreitner (Radcliffe Institute and Law, Tel Aviv), “Money in the 1890s: The Circulation of Law, Politics, and Economics”; Christopher Schmidt (Law, Chicago-Kent), “Conceptions of Law in the Civil Rights Movement”; Barbara Welke (History & Law, Minnesota), “Owning Hazard in the Modern American Consumer Marketplace”.

Commentator: Morton Horwitz (Law, Harvard)

Session 4: Instantiations - Law, Sovereignty, Justice
Chair Laura Kalman (History, Santa Barbara)

Speakers: Laura Edwards (History, Duke), “The Peace: The Meaning and Production of Law in the Post-Revolutionary U.S.”; John Witt (Law, Yale), “Escape and Engagement: The Laws of War in the Early American Republic”; Paul Frymer (Politics, Princeton), “Building an American Empire: Territorial Expansion and Indian Removal, 1787-1850”; Mariana Valverde (Criminology Centre, Toronto) “‘The honour of the Crown is at stake’: Aboriginal Land Claims Litigation in Canada and the Epistemology of Sovereignty”.

Commentator: Robert W. Gordon (Law, Yale)

10 March 2010

De la Fuente and Gross on Comparative Studies of Law, Slavery and Race in the Americas

The most recent list of SSRN Legal History Abstracts included Alejandro De la Fuente and Ariela J Gross, 'Comparative studies of law, slavery and race in the Americas'. The article will appear in the (2010) 6 Annual Review of Law and Social Science. The abstract reads:

This critical essay surveys the historical research comparing U.S. and Latin American law and slavery. An earlier generation of comparative work on race and slavery, by Frank Tannenbaum and others, drew heavily on law to draw sharp contrasts between U.S. and Latin American slavery, emphasizing the relative harshness of U.S. slave law. Revisionist social historians criticized Tannenbaum for providing a misleading top-down history based on metropolitan codes, and pointed to demographic and economic factors to explain variations in slavery regimes. More recently, legal historians have begun to explore law “from the bottom up” – slaves’ claims in court, trial-level adjudications, and interactions among ordinary people and low-level government officials. While most studies stay within one national context, some scholars have begun to look at slavery and freedom in the transnational context of the Atlantic world, and others have attempted comparisons of manumission in localities across legal regimes.

04 March 2010

64th Conference of the SIHDA

The 64th Session of the International Society ‘Fernand de Visscher’ for the History of Law in Antiquity (SIHDA) will be held in Barcelona, September 28th-October 2nd 2010. The theme will be «Communication and Publicity in Antiquity».

For the call for papers and more information, see

03 March 2010

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Worlds of the Trust

Faculty of Law, McGill University
23‐25 September 2010

Until recently, the trust was often described as foreign to the logic of the law of property in the civilian tradition. This assertion is increasingly untenable, as the profile of the trust in legal systems with a civilian law of property continues to develop and expand. This conference seeks to explore the multiple ways in which civilian and mixed legal systems have embraced the trust, with the goal of allowing jurists from different jurisdictions to better understand their different approaches to this increasingly important legal institution. The working languages of the conference will be English and French.

Some of the themes which we expect to be covered include: the historical development of trusts in civilian and mixed systems; the differing conceptual structures of such trusts, including how they are understood within the general law; the language of trust law; comparative trust law; the uses and applications of trusts in the modern world; and the possibilities for internationalizing trust law through increased recognition of foreign trusts and of party autonomy in choosing the governing law for trusts.

Confirmed participants include: François Barrière (Paris II—Panthéon‐Assas); Madeleine Cantin Cumyn (McGill); Yaëll Emerich (McGill); George Gretton (Edinburgh); Lusina Ho (Hong Kong University); Adam Hofri‐Winogradow (Hebrew University of Jerusalem); Mr. Justice Nicholas Kasirer (Quebec Court of Appeal); John Langbein (Yale); Paul Matthews (King’s College London); Michael McAuley (McGill); Robert Sitkoff (Harvard); Lionel Smith (McGill).

Proposals for papers are now invited. If you would like to offer a paper, please submit a working title and an abstract (of no more than 350 words) by email to before 15 April 2010. The abstract should be written in English or French, the language of the abstract indicating the language of the proposed full paper. Papers will be selected on the basis of their quality and originality, as well as their engagement with the conference theme and their fit with other papers being presented at the conference. The selection will be made by a scientific committee.

Presenters whose proposals are accepted will be expected to meet their own travel and accommodation costs, although the conference registration fee will be waived. Depending on the outcome of applications for financial assistance, some funds may be available to assist presenters with travel and accommodations; those who have need of such funds should indicate this in their applications.

Medieval Florence

Ross MacDonald from Dundee recently alerted me to the works of Robert Kuehn on the city laws of Medieval Florence. Having had a quick browse through one of them, they would seem to be very useful to anyone interested in the interplay between the ius proprium and the ius commune in medieval "Italy", Florence being an interesting example of a city where the influence of the ius commune was long resisted owing to the strength of local custom.

I take the liberty of posting a link to his works on amazon here.

Another interesting book which recently landed on my desk is the English translation of an Italian work on Tabula Picta. In this fascinating book, Marta Madero has collected many of the important medieval jurists' views on this thorny property-law issue and has demonstrated rather gracefully just how legally innovative they were when dealing with Roman law. Well worth purchasing.

I take the liberty of posting a link to this work on amazon here.

02 March 2010

Reprint of Pollock and Maitland

First published in 1895, Pollock and Maitland's The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I has become a classic for scholars of English law, but it was last reissued in 1968. Fortunately, in April the Liberty Fund will publish a reprint. (For more information, see

NOTICE: Criminal Justice/Legal History Network and Conferences

I just learned about the Criminal Justice/Legal History Network. Their webpage reads:
The Criminal Justice/Legal History Network is part of the Social Science History Association (SSHA) and the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC). It is made up of historians, sociologists, economists, criminologists, geographers, lawyers, and other academics and independent scholars who are interested in the history of crime, policing and the law. Members include both "bean counters" and "non-bean counters," scholars focusing on statistics and those exploring the meanings of narratives. The network’s purpose is to provide an international forum for the exchange of ideas and research across disciplines and methodologies. Many members of the network attend the annual meetings of the SSHA and the bi-annual meetings of the ESSHC to participate in sessions, roundtables, and poster displays that include the presentation of papers and discussion on important books, ongoing research projects and new research methods. In addition, members enjoy conference ‘Crime Gang’ dinners and other informal gatherings. While membership in the SSHA is necessary for participating in its conferences, it is not necessary for being a member of the Criminal Justice/Legal History network.

Note that the next ESSHC conference will be held soon in Ghent, Belgium from 14-17 April 2010. The next SSHA conference (on 'Power and Politics') is in Chicago, Illinois from 18-21 November 2010. Unfortunately, the Calls for Papers have past. Additional information on the Criminal Justice/Legal History Network is available on their site.

01 March 2010

REMINDER: European Society for Comparative Legal History Conference (Valencia, 5-6 July 2010)

The European Society for Comparative Legal History (ESCLH) inaugural conference, 'Law and Historical Development from a Comparative Perspective', will be held at the University of Valencia (Spain) on 5-6 July 2010. Presentations should be in English and are welcome on any topic in comparative legal history.

Note that the deadline is only two weeks away!

Those interested in making a presentation or with additional questions should email Dr Seán Patrick Donlan ( by Monday, 15 March 2010 with a short (250 word) proposal. Note that the conference fee is €100; transportation and accommodation are not included.