2010-11 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History

The Struggle for Land: Property, Territory, and Jurisdiction in Early Modern Europe and the Americas

Organized by Tamar Herzog, Stanford University, and Richard Ross, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The struggle to possess and control land, both as property and as jurisdictional territory, was central to the formation of early modern European societies as well as their colonial domains. This conference will look at how Europeans and indigenous peoples defined the right to land. We will examine how so-called European expansion influenced the conceptualization of property and territorial jurisdiction and the relationship between them. Conference participants may explore how notions of property and territoriality changed over time; and how colonial needs and the encounter with new cultures reshaped these notions. In what ways did “international competition” and the emergence of an “international law” (to use an anachronism) modify property and jurisdiction? How did economic, social, and political developments influence new ideas and experiences regarding the land? In what ways did these ideas and experiences shape practical strategies for claiming land and asserting rights to govern it and profit from it? We are particularly eager to know whether these encounters encouraged, consciously or not, borrowing between different European legal systems as well as between settlers and indigenous peoples. How was the movement and refashioning of legal knowledge bound up with the movement of peoples and refashioning of modes of control over land? We would like to encourage an interdisciplinary conversation among lawyers, historians, sociologists, geographers, and literary scholars.

Panel 1: Religion, Civility, and Debates over Property Regimes

“How the Indios Lost Their Land: Spanish Debates and Practices of Dispossession”
Tamar Herzog, Stanford University

“Conversion and French Imperialism: A New Hypothesis on Territorial Expansion in Early Modern France and New France”
Dominique Deslandres, University of Montreal

“The Nation as Lord: The French Revolution and the Creation of National Feudal Dues”
Rafe Blaufarb, Florida State University

Commentator 1: Frederick Hoxie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Commentator 2: R. H. Helmholz, University of Chicago
Chair: James Palmitessa, Western Michigan University

Panel 2: Strategies for Claiming Land

“What Territory Is Made of: On Property, Jurisdiction, and Their Reciprocal Relationship in Italy, 15th to 18th Centuries”
Antonio Stopani, University of Turin, Italy

“Lawlessness and Land Grants: Gold Prospecting, Runaway Slave Communities, and the Acquisition of Private Property on a Brazilian Frontier”
Hal Langfur, SUNY Buffalo

“Remaking Americans: Louisiana, Upper Canada, and Texas”
Alan Taylor, University of California, Davis

Commentator 1: Emilio Kourí, University of Chicago
Commentator 2 and Chair: Bianca Premo, Florida International

Author-Meets-Reader Session

Christopher Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonozing English America, 1580-1865 (Cambridge, 2010)

Reader 1: Julia Adams, Yale University
Reader 2: Stuart Banner, University of California, Los Angeles
Reader 3: Paul Eiss, Carnegie Mellon University
Reader 4: Tamar Herzog, Stanford University, and Richard Ross, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Reader 5: Richard White, Stanford University
Response: Christopher Tomlins, University of California, Irvine

Panel 3: Property as a Foundation of Political Order and Political Economy

“Peasant Property Rights and the Public Order in the Early Modern World: The Holy Roman, Ottoman, and Qing Empires Compared”
Govind Sreenivasan, Brandeis University

“Property Formation and State Formation: New Spain, New France, New England”
Allan Greer, McGill University

“Creating an American Property Law”
Claire Priest, Yale University

Commentator 1 and Chair: Daniel Hamilton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Commentator 2: Alison LaCroix, University of Chicago