2012-13 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History

Law and the French Atlantic

Organized by Allan Greer, McGill University, and Richard J. Ross, University of Illinois

The French Atlantic has not yet received the sustained attention given to the British and Spanish Atlantic, particularly where the topic of law is concerned. This conference will explore the legal dimension (broadly conceived) of the French Atlantic empire in the early modern period. The variegated and rapidly evolving juridical order of ancien régime France was deeply implicated in the expansion of overseas commerce, the founding of colonies, and the creation of imperial administrations.

Participants may explore topics such as: legal discourse and imperial ideologies; the establishment of colonial jurisdictions in Canada, Louisiana, and the French West Indies; the regulation of slavery; indigenous peoples and the law; the emergence of colonial land tenures; and the legal framework for trade and business enterprise. The organizers wish particularly to encourage comparative approaches that consider more than one French colony and that examine contrasts and convergences with the British, Spanish and Portuguese empires. In according due attention to the distinctive features of French law and the French New World empire, we hope to enrich understandings of Atlantic history generally.

Conference Schedule

9 am: Welcome

Allan Greer, McGill, History 
Richard J. Ross, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

9:05-10:35 am: Panel 1: The Legal Foundations of the French Atlantic Empire

The Army, the Navy, the Governor, and the Colony: Frameworks of Public Law in the French Atlantic

Alexandre Dubé, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture 

“Governed by the Same Laws, without Distinction or Difference”: Legal Pluralism and the Construction of Empire in the Early Modern French Atlantic
Brett Rushforth, College of William and Mary, History

Slaves and the Old Regime: The View from Paris
Miranda Spieler, University of Arizona, History

Commentator: David Bell, Princeton University, History

Chair: Richard J. Ross, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

10:35-10:50 am: Refreshment Break

10:50 am to 12:20 pm: Panel 2: Economy and Empire

A Feudal Empire?  Land Tenure in the French Atlantic
Allan Greer, McGill University

Company Logic Meets Legal Accountability: The Question of Liability of Chartered Enterprises in the Mid-Seventeenth-Century French Atlantic
Helen Dewar, University of Toronto, History

Payback for Default:  Legalities of Counterfeit in the French Atlantic
Catherine Desbarats, McGill University, History

Chair and commentator: Paul Cheney, University of Chicago, History

12:20 to 1:40 pm: Lunch

Participants are invited to try the restaurants in the neighborhood around the Newberry 

1:40 to 3:10 pm: Panel 3: Slavery and the Code Noir

Beyond the Codes Noirs: The Making of Slave Law(s) in the Early Modern French Atlantic
Guillaume Aubert, College of William and Mary, History

The Afterlife of the Law of Slavery: The Code Noir and the Language of Rights in the Era of the Haitian Revolution
Malick Ghachem, University of Maine, Law

Commentator #1: Jean Hébrard, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales; and University of Michigan, History

Commentator #2 and Chair: Lea Vandervelde, University of Iowa, Law

3:10 to 3:25 pm: Refreshment Break

3:25 to 4:55 pm: Panel 4: The Seven Years’ War and After

Indians Out of the Shadows and into the Plot: Tracing Indigenous Voices in Building a French Atlantic Case for Just War
Christian Crouch, Bard College, History

The Reactions of the “New” Subjects of Quebec to British Justice for Private Law Matters, 1760-1774
Michel Morin, Université de Montréal, Law

From French to British: Remonstrance, Representation, and Remediation between Empires
Hannah Weiss Muller, Harvard University, History and Literature

Commentator #1: Shannon Lee Dawdy, University of Chicago, Anthropology

Commentator #2 and Chair: Robert Morrissey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, History