Legal History

The Illinois Legal History Program seeks to further knowledge and appreciation of legal history through an ambitious series of workshops, conferences, and public lectures. Since its formation in 2004, the Program has hosted numerous distinguished scholars in its workshop series. With a particular emphasis on American, British, and comparative legal-historical scholarship, the Program draws upon the intellectual expertise of numerous faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Students who study legal history at the College of Law enjoy access to a wide range of curricular offerings, a rich set of online legal resources, and an impressive collection of rare legal-historical materials in the College of Law’s Albert E. Jenner Jr. Memorial Law Library.

Director

Richard J. Ross – David C. Baum Professor of Law and Professor of History

Program Events

Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History

The Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History gathers to discuss the comparative legal history of the Atlantic world in the period c. 1492 to 1815. The one-day symposium brings together law professors, historians, and social scientists to explore a particular topic in comparative legal history, broadly understood. We traditionally meet at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

The symposium is overseen by Professor Richard Ross. Funding has been provided by the University of Illinois College of Law.

Law, Theology, and the Moral Regulation of “Economy” in the Early-Modern Atlantic World

Friday, March 25, 2022; Newberry Library, Chicago 

Organized by: Brian Owensby (University of Virginia) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign)

The time is long past when the Western world’s emergent commercial culture could be understood solely in terms of a protestant ethos or the division between commerce and social morality occasioned by the Protestant Reformation. Scholarship has shown that “modern” ideas regarding commerce and “economics” had their roots in late-medieval Catholic thought and in neo-scholastic ideas that blended theology, justice, and law. It is clear as well that the rise of commercial thinking was not a linear intellectual development. Protestants and Catholics alike, facing the moral and social implications of novel “economic” relations, undertook deep theological and legal reflections regarding unbridled, competitive, exchange-oriented gain seeking. Many of these concerns were raised in the context of Europe’s westward expansion to the New World. Usury, just price, interest, legal personality, slavery, reciprocity, property, cases of conscience, doubts regarding self-regulating mechanisms, concerns for the poor—all figured in a vibrant legal discourse that simultaneously elaborated and critiqued a set of ideas regarding human economy that became dominant between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. This conference will bring together historians, legal scholars, and social scientists to investigate law’s historical role in enabling and regulating behaviors now recognized as foundational to modern economies.

The following will present papers or comments at the conference:

Paolo Astorri (University of Copenhagen, Law)
Claudia Brosseder (University of Illinois, History)
Luisa Brunori (Université de Lille, CNRS, Centre d’Histoire Judiciaire)
Dwight Codr (University of Connecticut, English)
Wim Decock (KU Leuven, Law)
Thomas Duve (Max Planck Institute for European Legal History)
Brodwyn Fischer (University of Chicago, History)
Regina Grafe (European University Institute, History)
Karen Graubart (Notre Dame, History)
David Lantigua (Notre Dame, Theology)
Laurent Mayali (Berkeley, Law)
Simon Middleton (William and Mary, History)
J. Michelle Molina (Northwestern, Religious Studies and History)
Robert Morrissey (University of Illinois, History)
Brian Owensby (University of Virginia, History)
Mark Peterson (Yale, History)
Steven Pincus (University of Chicago, History)
Francesca Trivellato (Institute for Advanced Study, Historical Studies)
Elvira Vilches (Duke, Romance Studies)
Carl Wennerlind (Barnard, History)

A schedule of panels will be posted when available.

Past Symposiums on Comparative Early Modern Legal History

2017-18 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
Arguing for the Rule of Law: Using the Hebrew Bible and Caricatures of Foreigners in British and Spanish America
Friday, October 26, 2018; Newberry Library, Chicago 
Organized by: Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (University of Texas at Austin) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign)

2015-16 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
Anglicization of Law and through Law: Early Modern British North America, India, and Ireland Compared
Friday, April 8, 2016
Organized by Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College, Dublin), Richard Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and Philip Stern (Duke University)

2014-15 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
Meanings of Justice in New World Empires: Settler and Indigenous Law as Counterpoints
Friday, October 10, 2014
Organized by Brian Owensby (University of Virginia) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

2012-13 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
Law and the French Atlantic
Friday, October 5, 2012
Organized by Allan Greer (McGill University) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

2010-11 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
The Struggle for Land: Property, Territory, and Jurisdiction in Early Modern Europe and the Americas
Friday, April 8, 2011
Organized by Tamar Herzog (Stanford University) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

2009-10 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
New Perspectives on Legal Pluralism
Friday, April 23, 2010
Organized by Lauren Benton (New York University) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

2008-09 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
The Law of Nations and the Early Modern Atlantic World
Friday, April 3, 2009
Organized by Eliga Gould (University of New Hampshire) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

2007-08 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
Criminal Justice in the British Atlantic World, 1500-1850
Friday, February 29, 2008
Organized by Bruce Smith (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

2006-07 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
Law, Religion, and Social Discipline in the Early Modern Atlantic World
Friday, October 6, 2006
Organized by Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

2005-06 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History
Membership in Communities and States in the Early Modern Atlantic World: Legal Rules, Social Judgments, and the Negotiation of Citizenship
Friday, October 14, 2005
Organized by Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)