carefully reconstructs the passage of thousands of individuals who had been displaced by the Haitian Revolution from Saint-Domingue to Cuba and on to New Orleans. Scott chronicles the shifting status of these refugees after the abolition of slavery by decree and then by the French National Convention from slave to free to slave and sometimes back again. Her analysis of the bureaucracy of slavery - the process of designation that sometimes occurred peremptorily on the deck of a ship - and individual resistance to such designations scrutinizes an underexplored aspect of slavery's machinery. Scott's detailed micro-history of the legal struggles of Adélaide Métayer/Durand in New Orleans to maintain her freedom and that of her children is a work of art.Th ASLH’s Sutherland Prize is named in honor of the late Donald W. Sutherland, “a distinguished historian of the law of medieval England and a mentor of many students.” It is awarded to “the person or persons who wrote the best article on English legal history published in the previous year. This year’s winner is my Georgetown Law colleague James Oldham for Informal Lawmaking in England by the Twelve Judges in the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries, Law and History Review 29 (2011): 181.
"Paper Thin" is richly sourced from multiple archives and in secondary literature in multiple languages, and the story-telling is gripping. The Surrency Prize Committee was impressed by Scott's mastery of this transnational tale and commends the essay as a model work of social, cultural, and legal history that challenges scholars to think about the ill-focused border between slavery and freedom in the Americas.
Hat tip: H-law