Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 Annual Meeting of the British Group of Early American Historians

Correspondence from Across the Pond
Norwich, UK, September 7, 2013

The 2013 annual meeting of the British Group of Early American Historians (BGEAH)  has featured several topics of considerable interest to legal historians.  Carla Pestana’s plenary address on Thursday was delivered in the medieval Dragon Hall.  Her talk focused on the unsuccessful seventeenth-century attack on Spanish Caribbean islands by Britain.  Debates over the validity of plunder under the law of war raged alongside powerful invocations of divine blessing and support on both sides of the fight. 

Other papers have treated the law and practice of surrender, the granting of “peace bonds” by judges in colonial Pennsylvania, and the law of corporations in the early Republic, in addition to presentations on taverns, elite Mohawk culture, silkworms, and more.

BGEAH is a relatively new group.  The website records meetings going back to 2000, but others report the first meeting was several years earlier.  It is a delightfully collegial, non-hierarchical, and welcoming society (there is no membership fee, for example). 

This year's conference includes nine panel sessions, two plenaries, and tonight's conference dinner at the beautiful Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts. 

Founding member Betty Wood of Cambridge University has worked extensively on slavery and power.    She is currently studying relations between servants in the eighteenth-century Chesapeake, and welcomes insight into the law governing conflict between servants, including the practice of “auctioning” off newborn babies born to servant women at town fairs.