Monday, October 2, 2017

Cavanagh on Colonial Charters and Constitutionalism

Edward Cavanagh, University of Cambridge, has posted Charters in the Longue Durée: The Mobility and Applicability of Donative Documents in Europe and America from Edward I to Chief Justice John Marshall, which is forthcoming in Comparative Legal History:
Colonial charters prompted new ways of thinking about constitutionalism, jurisdiction, and imperialism. Explaining this requires engagement with a series of micro-incidents across several hundred years of legal history. The evolution of written legalism is hereby explored from the European High Middle Ages to the early American Republican period. The article begins from the basic and uncontroversial premise that charters were valid only within the realm of a prince or overlord endorsing its issuance in the first place. If charters, like sundry other documents designed to advertise the donation or transferral of some privilege, were specific to particular jurisdictions and subjects in medieval legal history, what changed during the ‘age of discovery’? This article does not pretend to offer the definitive word on colonial charters, but rather exemplifies the kind of insights that are revealed by zooming out to appreciate legal and political change across the longue durée.