2015-16 Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History

Anglicization of Law and through Law: Early Modern British North America, India, and Ireland Compared

Scholars have long asked whether and how English settlements in North America, India, and Ireland converged towards metropolitan models, or anglicized, over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This question has commonly been asked about each region separately. Our conference poses the question comparatively—and from the perspective of legal history. We want to study the comparative anglicization of law and the anglicization of society through law in different portions of the English empire. To this end, we are interested in the following sorts of questions: To what extent does the notion of “anglicization” make sense in the dissimilar contexts of early modern North America, Ireland, and India? What value does the concept have as English law adapted to and conformed with extant legal systems from Belfast to Boston to Bombay? How did local material, demographic, and ideological environments shape the meaning of anglicization? How did imperial officials, settlers, merchants, and indigenous leaders, from their distinct perspectives, treat anglicization as a goal to be advanced, reworked, or resisted? In what ways did each region serve as a laboratory for ideas and policies about anglicization that were later exported to other regions, and there reshaped? The conference will bring together law professors, historians, and social scientists to think about a comparative legal and social history of anglicization across the dispersed early modern English empire.

Conference Schedule

9:00 – Welcome

  • Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College, Dublin, History), Richard Ross (Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Law and History), and Philip Stern (Duke, History) 

9:05 to 10:35 – Panel: Foundations and Constitutive Elements of Anglicization

  • Brendan Kane (Connecticut, History): “Criminalization as Anglicization: A Case Study of Early Modern Ireland” 
  • Elizabeth Mancke (New Brunswick, History): “Sites of Sovereignty: The Body of the Subject and the Making of Britain’s Overseas Empire” 
  • Brendan Gillis (Miami University, History): “Frontiers of Peace: The Anglicization of Law Enforcement in British America and India”
  • Commentator: Jack Greene (Johns Hopkins, History) 
  • Chair: Richard Ross (Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Law and History) 

10:35 to 10:50 – Refreshment Break 

10:50 to 12:20 – Panel: Circulation of Anglicization Practices among Imperial Regions

  • Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College, Dublin, History): “Anglicization of Law and through Law: Ireland and Bombay in the Seventeenth Century”
  • Jennifer Wells (Brown, History): “Anglicizing Social Control and Punishment, from Irish Servants to East Indian Slaves”
  • Paul Halliday (Virginia, History): “Building an Empire of Courts”
  • Commentator and Chair: Mitra Sharafi (Wisconsin, Law) 

12:20 to 1:40 – Lunch

  • Participants and audience members are invited to try the restaurants in the neighborhood around the Newberry. 

1:40 to 3:10 – Panel: Limits of Anglicization

  • Andrew MacKillop (Aberdeen, History): “‘English’ or ‘British’ Empire: Scots Law, Legal Pluralism, and the Limits of Anglicization, c. 1707-c.1820”
  • Julia Rudolph (North Carolina State, History): “Credit Practices and Comparative Anglicization: Ireland and North America” 
  • Lisa Ford (New South Wales, Humanities): “Inquiring into Empire” 
  • Commentator: Patrick Griffin (Notre Dame, History) 
  • Chair: Philip Stern (Duke, History)

3:10 to 3:25 – Refreshment Break 

3:25 to 4:55 – Panel: Ironies of Anglicization

  • Nicholas Canny (National University of Ireland, Galway, History): “English Law in Early Modern Ireland: Promoting or Impeding Anglicization?”
  • Mitch Fraas (University of Pennsylvania, Library): “Anglicization Beyond British North America: The Rise and Fall of British Law in Eighteenth-Century India” 
  • Robert Travers (Cornell, History): “Anglicization as Colonial Despotism: The Judicial Reforms of Lord Cornwallis in Bengal”
  • Commentator: Jennifer Pitts (University of Chicago, Political Science)
  • Chair: Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College, Dublin, History)

5:00 – Adjourn