Monday, September 10, 2018

Symposium: Rule of Law, the Hebrew Bible and Foreigners in the Americas

[We share the following announcement.]

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

Date: Friday, October 26, 2018
Location: Newberry Library, Chicago
Organized by: Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (University of Texas, Austin) and Richard Ross (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

How did settlers, imperial officials, indigenous peoples, and Africans in the New World seek to demonstrate, or disprove, that a polity respected the rule of law?  (The phrase “rule of law” is modern; but the core of the idea is not).  Colonial rule invited accusations of arbitrary government and systematic lawlessness.  This conference will focus on two common techniques used to assess whether a polity respected the supremacy of law.  First, controversialists asked whether governance accorded with God’s expectations of justice as laid out in Scripture, particularly the Hebrew Bible.  Second, caricatures of other societies could be held up to make one’s own appear lawful and just, or the reverse.  British American settlers applauded the civility of their law by reference to the presumed barbarism of the Irish and Amerindians.  They saw liberty in their exploitive legal order by opposing it to the supposed absolutism of the Spanish and French empires.  Spanish settlers justified their rule and derecho by contrasting them to the law of indigenous polities and of their New World rivals.  The conference will bring together historians, law professors, and social scientists to think about the complex debates about the rule of law in the English and Iberian Atlantic.  

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (University of Texas, Austin) and Richard Ross (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) organized “Arguing for the Rule of Law: Using the Hebrew Bible and Caricatures of Foreigners in British and Spanish America.”  The conference is an offering of the Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History, which gathers every other year at the Newberry Library in Chicago in order to explore a particular topic in the comparative legal history of the Atlantic world in the period c.1492-1815.  Funding has been provided by the University of Illinois College of Law. 

            Attendance at the Symposium is free and open to the public.  Those who wish to attend should preregister by sending an email to Richard Ross at Rjross@illinois.edu.  Papers will be circulated electronically to all registrants several weeks before the conference.

For information about the conference, please consult our website at https://law.illinois.edu/faculty-research/specialty-programs/legal-history/ or contact Richard Ross at Rjross@illinois.edu or at 217-244-7890. 

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