Saturday, May 15, 2021

Weekend Roundup

  • "Professor Sarah Seo, Columbia Law School, discusses the Automotive Fourth Amendment for the Supreme Court Historical Society's Virtual Lecture Series" on YouTube.
  • Six 4-year doctoral scholarships are available at the Scuola Superiore Meridionale, the University of Naples Federico II, Napoli (Italy), a.y. 2021-2022.  More.
  • For authors of 2020 books: don't forget that ASLH book prize nominations are due June 1, 2021. Details on the Cromwell, Reid, and Stein awards here. Self-nominations are welcome.
Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Beerman's "Journey to Separate But Equal"

My law school classmate Jack M. Beermann, Boston University School of Law, has just published The Journey to Separate but Equal: Madame Decuir's Quest for Racial Justice in the Reconstruction Era (University Press of Kansas):

In The Journey to Separate but Equal: Madame Decuir’s Quest for Racial Justice in the Reconstruction Era, Jack Beermann tells the story of how, in Hall v. Decuir, the post–Civil War US Supreme Court took its first step toward perpetuating the subjugation of the non-White population of the United States by actively preventing a Southern state from prohibiting segregation on a riverboat in the coasting trade on the Mississippi River. The Journey to Separate but Equal offers the first complete exploration of Hall v. Decuir, with an in-depth look at the case’s record; the lives of the parties, lawyers, and judges; and the case’s social context in 1870s Louisiana. The book centers around the remarkable story of Madame Josephine Decuir and the lawsuit she pursued because she had been illegally barred from the cabin reserved for White women on the Governor Allen riverboat.

The drama of Madame Decuir’s fight against segregation’s denial of her dignity as a human and particularly as a woman enriches our understanding of the Reconstruction era, especially in Louisiana, including political and legal changes that occurred during that time and the plight of people of color who were freed from slavery but denied their dignity and rights as American citizens. Hall v. Decuir spanned the pivotal period of 1872–1878, during which White segregationist Democrats “redeemed” the South from Republican control. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Hall overturned the application of an 1869 Louisiana statute prohibiting racial segregation in Madame Decuirs case because of the status of the Mississippi River as a mode of interstate commerce. The decision represents a crucial precedent that established the legal groundwork for the entrenchment of Jim Crow in the law of the United States, leading directly to the Courts adoption of separate but equal in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Professor Beerman discusses the book here.  Encomia after the jump.

--Dan Ernst

Barbas's "Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst"

Samantha Barbas, University at Buffalo School of Law, has published The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst: Free Speech Renegade  (University of Chicago Press):

In the 1930s and ’40s, Morris Ernst was one of America’s best-known liberal lawyers. The ACLU’s general counsel for decades, Ernst was renowned for his audacious fights against artistic censorship. He successfully defended Ulysses against obscenity charges, litigated groundbreaking reproductive rights cases, and supported the widespread expansion of protections for sexual expression, union organizing, and public speech. Yet Ernst was also a man of stark contradictions, waging a personal battle against Communism, defending an autocrat, and aligning himself with J. Edgar Hoover’s inflammatory crusades.

Arriving at a moment when issues of privacy, artistic freedom, and personal expression are freshly relevant, The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst, Free Speech Renegade brings this singularly complex figure into a timely new light. As Samantha Barbas’s eloquent and compelling biography makes ironically clear, Ernst both transformed free speech in America and inflicted damage to the cause of civil liberties. Drawing on Ernst’s voluminous cache of publications and papers, Barbas follows the life of this singular idealist from his pugnacious early career to his legal triumphs of the 1930s and ’40s and his later idiosyncratic zealotry. As she shows, today’s challenges to free speech and the exercise of political power make Morris Ernst’s battles as pertinent as ever.
Encomia after the jump.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Legal History in the Michigan Law Review Book Review Issue

As I noted recently on Twitter, the Michigan Law Review's Book Review Issue is chock full of legal history. Items of interest include:

Michele Goodwin, "A Different Type of Property: White Women and the Human Property They Kept." A Review of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet A. Jacobs, and They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers.

Lisa Heinzerling, "The Rule of Five Guys." A review of The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court, by Richard J. Lazarus. 

Shaun Ossei-Owusu, "Racial Revisionism." A review of The Enigma of Clarence Thomas, by Corey Robin.

Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus, "A Perfectly Empty Gift." A review of Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire, by Sam Erman.

Karen M. Tani, "Compensation, Commodification, and Disablement: How Law Has Dehumanized Laboring Bodies and Excluded Nonlaboring Humans." A review of Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era, by Nate Holdren.

Andrew Lanham, "The Geopolitics of American Policing." A review of Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing, by Stuart Schrader.

The full issue is available here.

-- Karen Tani

Sword on wives in early America

 Kirsten Sword (Indiana University Bloomington) has published Wives not Slaves:

Patriarchy and Modernity in the Age of Revolutions with the University of Chicago Press. From the publisher: 

Wives not Slaves begins with the story of John and Eunice Davis, a colonial American couple who, in 1762, advertised their marital difficulties in the New Hampshire Gazette—a more common practice for the time and place than contemporary readers might think. John Davis began the exchange after Eunice left him, with a notice resembling the ads about runaway slaves and servants that were a common feature of eighteenth-century newspapers. John warned neighbors against “entertaining her or harbouring her. . . or giving her credit.” Eunice defiantly replied, “If I am your wife, I am not your slave.” With this pointed but problematic analogy, Eunice connected her individual challenge to her husband’s authority with the broader critiques of patriarchal power found in the politics, religion, and literature of the British Atlantic world.

Kirsten Sword’s richly researched history reconstructs the stories of wives who fled their husbands between the mid-seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, comparing their plight with that of other runaway dependents.  Wives not Slaves explores the links between local justice, the emerging press, and transatlantic political debates about marriage, slavery and imperial power. Sword traces the relationship between the distress of ordinary households, domestic unrest, and political unrest, shedding new light on the social changes imagined by eighteenth-century revolutionaries, and on the politics that determined which patriarchal forms and customs the new American nation would—and would not—abolish. 

 Praise for the book:

Wives not Slaves is a must-read for anyone interested in the interplay between popular culture and law. Readers will appreciate both the narrative power of its case studies and the elegance of its arguments. This powerful book not only deconstructs the feminist analogy of marriage as slavery, it reassesses the notion of expanding equality in the age of revolution. Better yet, it is filled with thought-provoking implications for our own age.” - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“Sword unsilences the past, recovering the cacophonous voices of all the ordinary wives and husbands who put their domestic unions on trial in the pages of early American newspapers. A keenly argued study of the making and breaking of colonial marriages in the court of public opinion, Wives Not Slaves explains how marital practices developed in dialogue with the elaboration of other species of household dependence even as it eviscerates the false equivalence between divorce and emancipation.” - Richard Bell

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

CFP: Legal Histories of Empire

[We have the following call for papers.  DRE]

Third Legal Histories of Empire Conference
Beyond the Pale: Legal Histories on the Edges of Empires
Maynooth University, 29 June-1 July 2022

Empires. Plural. Across time and across the globe, interconnected, mutually constitutive. We invite papers which consider the interconnections and the legal relations between empires. The conference will particularly focus on the role played by law (broadly defined) in facilitating, constituting, and enabling these connections; on the people of law who moved between these places; and the institutions which bound them together. How might we map Empires through these connections? How do we now conceptualise such movement, and are there new ways in which we could envisage legal interchange across time and place? Of particular interest are the connections between places with very different legal systems and traditions. How can we better bring together the efforts of historians working in different legal traditions? In this third Legal Histories of Empires conference we hope to more deeply uncover the legal threads that bound different empires, places, laws and legal traditions across the globe.

Keynote Panel: Jane Ohlmeyer, Richard J Ross, Philip Stern: 'Anglicisation of and through law in British America, Ireland, and India, c.1550-1800'

Abstracts to conference2022@lhbe.org or the relevant stream by 31 October 2021. Acceptances will be sent in late November 2021.

The organisers are not able to provide funding for travel. However, the Max Planck Institute has generously offered scholarships for scholars from the Global South. The information on these is on the website and applicants should follow the instructions on that site.

Format: Face to Face with provision for virtual presentations and attendance. Please indicate on your abstract whether your participation is contingent on the availability of online participation.

Individual papers: If you are submitting an individual paper, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words.

Panels (of no more than 4 speakers: a chair and/or commentator can be included): If you are submitting a panel, please submit:
(1)    A panel abstract of no more than 250 words; and
(2)    Individual paper abstracts of no more than 200 words.

Personal information: For each participant (presenter, chair, or commentator), please submit:
(1)    Biographical details of no more than 200 words; and
(2)    Where you will be in July 2022 if you are not physically in Ireland, and what timezone that place is in.

Only one proposal can be submitted per person. For streams please send to the relevant panel organiser (below). For general proposals please send to the main conference email address. No multiple submissions will be accepted.


Streams 

In addition to papers and panels addressing the theme generally, the following streams will be offered. Individual paper proposals and panel proposals in the same format as above should be sent to the organisers of the relevant stream.

Intellectual Property in Empire: Prof Isabella Alexander: Isabella.Alexander@uts.edu.au
The Maritime World in Legal History: Prof Diane Kirkby: Diane.Kirkby@uts.edu.au
Indigeneity, Law and Empires: Prof Pooja Parmar: parmar@uvic.ca
Legal Transfer in the Common Law World: Prof Stefan Vogenauer and Dr Donal Coffey: vogenauer@lhlt.mpg.de

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Centre for English Legal History Talks (with Links)

We’ve previously posted the line-up for Centre for English Legal History at the University of Cambridge.  Here it is again, with TEAMS links.

May 18    Dr Caroline Laske (University of Ghent)

Legal history meets diachronic semantics: understanding legal concepts and terminology over time

Dr. Laske’s description, from her recent email: “In my talk I will discuss the use of linguistic disciplines as cognitive models for legal history. Particular attention will be paid to the use of analytical linguistics and corpus/concordance-based methodologies that enable us to gain a deep level understanding of the origins, evolution and change of legal thinking, the law and its terminology.  The approach and methodology will be illustrated with three legal historical studies relating to the conceptualisation of legal concepts (consideration in contract law), a relatively new area of law (environmental law) and the textual representation of a particular group of people in customary law sources (women in the Très Ancien Coutumier de Normandie).”

Tuesday 18/05/21
17:00-18:00 GMT
Link

June 1  Dr Kenneth Duggan (University of Toronto)

Deodands and the Law in Thirteenth-Century England

Tuesday 01/06/21
15:00-16:00 GMT
Link

June 8   Professor Marie Seong-Hak Kim (St. Cloud State University) 

Revisiting Custom in Legal History and Historiography

Tuesday 08/06/21
15:00-16:00 GMT
Link

June 16  Professor Thomas McSweeney (William and Mary Law School) 

Priests of the Law: Roman Law and the Making of the Common Law's First Professionals

Tuesday 15/06/21
15:00-16:00 GMT
Link

The conveners are Alec Thompson (at808@cam.ac.uk) and Doug Chapman (drc63@cam.ac.uk).

--Dan Ernst

Francis Parkman Prize to Tomlins for "In the Matter of Nat Turner"

The Society of American Historians has awarded the Francis Parkman Prize to Christopher Tomlins (University of California, Berkeley) for In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History (Princeton University Press). The Society awards this prize annually "to a nonfiction work of history on an American theme published the previous year that is distinguished by its literary merit." Here's the citation:

Christopher Tomlins ingeniously reconstructs an event and a man we thought we knew: the tragic 1831 slave insurrection in Virginia and its near-mythic leader, Nat Turner. The significance of this book extends well beyond the new story it tells.  The author takes us on his journey of discovery, offering penetrating new readings of the existing evidence, subtly deciphering Turner’s extensive use of religious language, and forging new connections between the event and the larger context of the legal power, violence, and political forces arrayed against any opponent of slavery.

The book is also a master class in the craft of history. By sharing his reflections and speculations throughout the book, Tomlins allows the reader to appreciate every facet of his interrogation of the actions taken by Turner and other key figures in the story. In addition, Tomlins offers a profound new interpretation of The Confessions of Nat Turner (the original version, based on the interview by Thomas Ruffin Gray shortly after the insurrection). It is the one document that gives us clues to Turner’s motives.  Through his exegesis, Tomlins recovers Turner’s agency, treats him on his own terms as an intellectual, shows that his religious beliefs sprang from a deep knowledge of the Bible, and reveals him as a keenly perceptive student of the Virginia slaveholding society in which he lives.  And as Turner acts on his apocalyptic and messianic desires, the author forces us into a productively unsettling confrontation with what Turner called the “work of death” and its consequences.

Christopher Tomlins has given us a deep, original reckoning with the historical record, one that is bound to influence future investigations of Nat Turner, his moment, and its continuing reverberations.

Congratulations to Christopher Tomlins!

-- Karen Tani

van der Heijden, Pluskota, Muurling and friends on women's criminality in Europe

Manon van der Heijden, Marion Pluskota, and Sanne Muurling (all at Universiteit Leiden) have co-edited the volume, Women's Criminality in Europe, 1600-1914 with Cambridge University Press. From the publisher: 

Bringing together the most current research on the relationship between crime and gender in the West between 1600 and 1914, this authoritative volume places female criminality within its everyday context. It reveals how their socio-economic and cultural contexts provided women with 'agency' against a range of European backdrops, despite a fundamentally patriarchal criminal justice system, and includes in-depth analysis of original sources to show how changing living standards, employment, schooling and welfare arrangements had a direct impact on the quality of life of working class women, their risk of becoming involved in crime, and the likelihood of being prosecuted for it. Rather than treating women's criminality as always exceptional, this study draws out the similarities between female and male criminality, demonstrating how an understanding of specific cultural and socio-economic contexts is essential to explain female criminality, both why their criminal patterns changed, and how their crimes were represented by contemporaries.

Table of Contents after the jump: 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Widener to Retire as YLS Rare Book Librarian

Mike Widener (YLS)
We know that “end of an era” is a cliche, but everything else seems inadequate.  Mike Widener is stepping down as Rare Book Librarian at the Yale Law School, a post he took up after years as Head of Special Collections at the Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas at Austin, School of Law.  His farewell post on the blog of the Lillian Goldman Law Library is here; an interview, here.  He tells us that he will stay in the rare book world as the U.S. Advisor for Bibliopathos, and in August he will teach his Rare Book School course, “Law Books: History & Connoisseurship.”

--Dan Ernst

Palmer on the Lost Translators of the Louisiana Civil Code

Vernon Valentine Palmer,  the Thomas Pickles Professor of Law at Tulane University, has published The Lost Translators of 1808 and the Birth of Civil Law in Louisiana (University of Georgia Press).  It appears in the series Southern Legal Studies, edited by Paul Finkelman and Timothy S. Huebner.

In 1808 the legislature of the Louisiana territory appointed two men to translate the Digest of the Laws in Force in the Territory of Orleans (or, as it was called at the time, simply the Code) from the original French into English. Those officials, however, did not reveal who received the commission, and the translators never identified themselves. Indeed, the "translators of 1808" guarded their secret so well that their identities have remained unknown for more than two hundred years. Their names, personalities, careers, and credentials, indeed everything about them, have been a missing chapter in Louisiana legal history.

In this volume, Vernon Valentine Palmer, through painstaking research, uncovers the identity of the translators, presents their life stories, and evaluates their translation in the context of the birth of civil law in Louisiana. One consequence of the translators' previous anonymity has been that the translation itself has never been fully examined before this study. To be sure, the translation has been criticized and specific errors have been pointed out, but Palmer's study is the first general evaluation that considers the translation's goals, the Louisiana context, its merits and demerits, its innovations, failures, and successes. It thus allows us to understand how much and in what ways the translators affected the future course of Louisiana law. The Lost Translators, through painstaking research, uncovers the identity of the translators, presents their life stories, and evaluates their translation in the context of the birth of civil law in Louisiana.
--Dan Ernst                           

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Weekend Roundup

  • Over at JOTWELL Christopher Schmidt (Chicago-Kent College of Law/Illinois Tech) has posted an admiring review of Mary Ziegler's Abortion and the Law in America (2020): "In her important and insightful new book, . . . Mary Ziegler explains how the debate over Roe has evolved and why it endures."
  • India's former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee has died of covid-19 at the age of 91. Tributes here, here, here, and here.
  • Over at In Custodia Legis, a post about a new acquisition by the Library of Congress: "the memorable legal study aid, Memoriale Insitutionum Juris (Ratzeburg, 1672), written by the seventeenth-century German minister and secondary school instructor Johannes Bun."
  • Tribute to the memory of Vice President Walter Mondale from Ryan Greenwood at the Riesenfeld Rare Books Blog, U. of Minnesota Law School.
  • John Fabian Witt discusses American Contagions: Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19 in the ABA Journal.
  • From the Senate Historical Office: "In the early 20th century, a group of progressive senators from midwestern and western states arrived in Washington committed to expanding the role of the federal government to address the economic and social challenges of industrialization. To accomplish these goals, they had to tackle another challenge—the power of the federal judiciary." (Senate Progressives v. Federal Courts).
  • Hosted by UVA and the Royal Society for Asian Affairs: a recent symposium on "Citizenship, Belonging, and the Partition of India." Video now up here.
  • ICYMI: Two Yale law students have organized the Immigrant History Initiative, “a nonprofit that produces curricula on Asian American histories for schools and communities” (Yale Daily News). The Advocates Library: "a vital resource with an illustrious history" (The Scotsman).  Laura Edwards, Oak Ridge High School alumna (Oak Ridger).  Ariela Gross, Harvard Radcliffe Institute 2021–2022 Fellow (HRI). 

Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Common Law, Civil Law, and Colonial Law: Papers from the 24th BLHC

Just published by Cambridge University Press: Common Law, Civil Law, and Colonial Law: Essays in Comparative Legal History from the Twelfth to the Twentieth Centuries, ed. William Eves, University of St Andrews, John Hudson, University of St Andrews, Ingrid Ivarsen, University of Cambridge, and Sarah B. White, University of St Andrews.

Common Law, Civil Law, and Colonial Law
builds upon the legal historian F.W. Maitland's famous observation that history involves comparison, and that those who ignore every system but their own 'hardly came in sight of the idea of legal history'. The extensive introduction addresses the intellectual challenges posed by comparative approaches to legal history. This is followed by twelve essays derived from papers delivered at the 24th British Legal History Conference. These essays explore patterns in legal norms, processes, and practice across an exceptionally broad chronological and geographical range. Carefully selected to provide a network of inter-connections, they contribute to our better understanding of legal history by combining depth of analysis with historical contextualization. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
TOC after the jump.

Centre for English Legal History

[Here's the line up in the the Centre for English Legal History at the University of Cambridge for May and June.  DRE]



Helmholz to Receive Honorary Degree

R. H. Helmholz (credit)
We congratulate Richard H. Helmholz, the Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, upon his being chosen to receive an honorary degree from Washington University in St. Louis.  The university press release is here.

--Dan Ernst

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Call for Applications for 2 Canadian Legal History Awards: McMurtry Fellowship, Peter Oliver Prize

Our friends at the Canadian Legal History Blog have posted a call for applications for the R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History and the Peter Oliver Prize in Canadian Legal History, both administered by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. Deadline: May 31, 2021.

On the R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History:

The R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History was created in 2007, on the occasion of the retirement as Chief Justice of Ontario of the Hon. R. Roy McMurtry. It honours the contribution to Canadian legal history of Roy McMurtry, Attorney-General and Chief Justice of Ontario, founder of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and for many years the Society's President.
 
The fellowship of $16,000 is to support graduate (preferably doctoral) students or those with a recently completed doctorate, to conduct research in Canadian legal history, for one year. Scholars working on any topic in the field of Canadian legal history are eligible. Applicants should be in a graduate programme at an Ontario University or, if they have a completed doctorate, be affiliated with an Ontario University.
 
The fellowship may be held concurrently with other awards for graduate study. Eligibility is not limited to history and law programmes; persons in cognate disciplines such as criminology or political science may apply, provided the subject of the research they will conduct as a McMurtry fellow is Canadian legal history. The selection committee may take financial need into consideration. Applications will be assessed by a committee appointed by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.

On the Peter Oliver Prize:

The Peter Oliver Prize in Canadian Legal History was established by the Society in 2006 in honour of Professor Peter Oliver, the Society's founding editor-in-chief. The prize is awarded annually for published work (journal article, book chapter, book) in Canadian legal history written by a student.
 
Students in any discipline at any stage of their careers are eligible. The Society takes a broad view of legal history, one that includes work in socio-legal history, legal culture, etc., as well as work on the history of legal institutions, legal personnel, and substantive law.
 

For information on how to apply, follow the link to the Canadian Legal History Blog.

-- Karen Tani

Originalism Across Legal Traditions: An Interdisciplinary Conversation

On May 25, the University of Southern California Early Modern Studies Institute will host "an interdisciplinary conversation" on Originalism Across Legal Traditions:

Join us for a wide-ranging conversation about constitutional "originalism" across legal and cultural traditions. Leading scholars of law, history, literature, and religion will discuss how distinct traditions have identified, sanctified, and interpreted their foundational texts.

Convened by Nathan Perl-Rosenthal (USC) and Jonathan Gienapp (Stanford University), the event will feature Sandy Levinson (University of Texas, Austin), Intisar Rabb (Harvard Law School), Rohit De (Yale University), and Deidre Lynch (Harvard University).

You may register here.

-- Karen Tani

Aulakh on the Komagata Maru

Preet S. Aulakh (York University, Toronto) has published the following article: "Law, Identity and Imperial Logics of Exclusion: The Case of the Komagata Maru Passengers," The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (published online on 17 March 2021), 1-33. Here is the abstract: 

This article investigates the journey of the Komagata Maru in 1914, and the multiple exclusions of its primarily Sikh passengers from various colonial jurisdictions, through the lenses of global and local legitimacy contestations across the British Empire at the beginning of the twentieth century. The paradox of its subjects’ mobility (i.e. accommodating the aspirations of ‘white-only’ self-governing colonies and disapproving the race-based exclusion of its ‘non-white’ subjects) had consumed the Empire for almost two decades. This contradiction necessitated justifications of exclusion that would be compatible with the liberal ideology of all subjects having equal rights and palatable to the political expediency considerations of different colonies. The transformation of the legal identities of the ship’s passengers from ‘farmers’ to ‘labourers’ to ‘seditionists’ during a short span of five months facilitated the institutionalisation of alternative logics of exclusion based on class and loyalty to the Empire. Through an in-depth study of an important episode in colonial history, this article attempts to foreground how intricate linkages among law, legitimacy and identity played out during a critical juncture for the British Empire.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Krause on the 1951 Refugee Convention

 Ulrike Krause (Osnabrück University, Germany) has published the following article: "Colonial roots of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its effects on the global refugee regime," Journal of International Relations and Development (published online on 3 Jan. 2021). Here is the abstract: 

The founding of the 1951 Refugee Convention and today’s global refugee regime have mainly been linked to the Second World War and to the early phase of the Cold War in research. But what role does colonialism play here? This article complements Postcolonial and Ignorance Studies and uses online archival research to explore debates among state delegations about the Convention’s refugee definition and ‘colonial clause’ at the founding conference (2–25 July 1951). It illuminates delegations’ strategic production of knowledge and especially ignorance—meaning the construction of issues as irrelevant—leading to the prioritisation of ‘the West’ over ‘the Rest’. Colonial and imperial states generally dominated debates while colonised ones were excluded, and thus silenced. Despite broad support for the universal refugee definition, several powerful delegations demanded its limitation to Europe and therewith strategically subordinated and ignored the ‘Other’ refugees and regions in pursuit of geopolitical interests. They thus made the colonial ‘Others’ irrelevant in the creation of ‘international’ refugee law. I argue that these debates rendered the Convention’s founding ‘colonial-ignorant’, with lasting effects for the regime’s functioning.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Wells on Partnership and Personhood

Harwell Wells, Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law, has posted The Personification of the Partnership, which is forthcoming in volume 74 of the Vanderbilt Law Review (2021):

What does it mean to say a business association is a legal person? The question has shadowed the law of business organizations for at least two centuries. When we say a business is a legal person we may be claiming that the law distinguishes its assets, liabilities, and obligations from those of its owners; or that it has a “real will” and personality apart from its owners; or that it in some way can carry or assert rights generally ascribed to natural persons. This Article sheds new light on these old questions by looking at an oft-overlooked business form, the partnership, and at once-fierce debates over just what the partnership is. In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century scholars and practitioners hotly debated whether the partnership was an “aggregate” or “entity” and whether the law should treat it as a separate legal person, debates which culminated in the drafting of the Uniform Partnership Act (1914). Central to these debates was a now-forgotten facet of the legal personhood debates: the moral consequences of treating a business association as a distinct legal person.

--Dan Ernst

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Weekend Roundup

  • Jennifer McNabb, University of Northern Iowa, has published Early Modern Ecclesiastical Law and Consistory Courts, a review of R.H. Helmholz’s Profession of Ecclesiastical Lawyers: An Historical Introduction (2019) and two volumes of Depositions in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, ed. William Husband (2019), in Reviews in History.
  • Katharine Janes, graduate of UVA Law's JD-MA legal history program and her thesis on Abe Fortas and In re Gault (UVA Law).   
  • The California State Library has published California Statute-to-Bill Numbers (1900-2020).  This “interactive tool contains information regarding California statutes and their corresponding bill numbers dating back to 1900. With a citation, you may be able to find more legislative history online.”

Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Welcome, Laurie Wood!

We are excited to welcome Laurie Wood (Florida State University) as our guest blogger in May 2021. 

Professor Wood is a historian of the early modern world. She focuses on Francophone history in comparative perspective with attention to legality, risk, and place. 

Her first book, Archipelago of Justice: Law in France's Early Modern Empire (Yale University Press, 2020) reveals how courts became liaisons between France and its new colonial possessions in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans between 1680 and 1780. Her second book project is Precarious Fortunes: Women, Catastrophe & Complicity in the French Tropics. It examines often-ignored civil litigation from French Caribbean colonies from the perspective of women--enslaved and free, married and single--whose status and power could change in an instant. 

Professor Wood is also at work on other projects on the entangled domains of legal and scientific knowledge, legal consciousness in Indian Ocean taverns, public and private space in Caribbean slave societies, and exile in the circum-Caribbean. 

Professor Wood has taught courses on a wide array of topics, from pirates in the Atlantic world to monsoon empires of the Indian Ocean, 800-1800. She was a Hurst Institute fellow in 2013.

You can read more about her research at her website, Clionaute

Welcome, Professor Wood!

--Mitra Sharafi

Friday, April 30, 2021

Thank you, Samuel Fury Childs Daly!

We're delighted to have had Samuel Fury Childs Daly (Duke University) join us as guest blogger in April 2021. Many thanks for his multi-part series on documents from Nigeria, drawn from his current book project, Soldier's Paradise: Military Rule in Nigeria. Here are his posts, in chronological order:

Thank you, Professor Daly!

--Mitra Sharafi

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Wolf reviews Cohen's "Saving America's Cities"

Michael Allan Wolf, University of Florida Levin College of Law, has posted Between Jacob(s) and Moses: Ed Logue, Urban Redevelopment Lawyer, which appears in the Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law:

In Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age, her thorough, fascinating, Bancroft Award-winning study of the life and work of Ed Logue, Harvard historian Lizabeth Cohen has presented a volume that should sit on every housing and community development lawyer’s bookshelf. I suggest nestling this volume between Jane Jacobs’s 1961 cri de coeur, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and Robert Caro’s 1975 biographical masterpiece, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. This review focuses on the legal aspect of Logue’s oeuvre. Those born in the 1960s and later have no first-hand knowledge of how significant federal dollars and tax expenditures, supplemented by ambitious state and private-sector participation, can dramatically increase the supply of affordable housing and redevelop, in positive and negative ways, large swaths of the urban landscape. For that reason, this review provides ample details concerning Logue’s successes and failures on the ground. 

--Dan Ernst

Shmuely on law and the laboratory

Shira Shmuely (Tel Aviv University) has published the following article: "Law and the Laboratory: The British Vivisection Inspectorate in the 1890s," Law & Social Inquiry (published online on 8 April 2021), 1-31. Here's the abstract: 

The 1876 British Cruelty to Animals Act introduced an unprecedented administrative system to supervise any experiment “calculated to give pain” to a living animal. The act, which was in force for a hundred years, established a tight system of control over animal experimentation, including a small, but vigorous, inspectorate. This article explores the relations between bureaucracy and the production of knowledge through the correspondences, memos, and notes taken by two principal inspectors under the act. The inspectors belonged to the worlds of both law and science. Coming from within the scientific profession, their close ties to medical social circles not only evoked critique but also helped them fulfill their tasks and gain access to research laboratories. Archival records examined here for the first time show that, although the inspectors downplayed animals’ pain in physiological laboratories, the inspectorate played an important role in shaping the experimental space and practice, thus facilitating the production of “ethical scientific facts.” The inspectors’ work modeled the new legal regime of animal experimentation regulation, making them indispensable agents in the act’s coproduction of knowledge and public order.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Risch and Viney on the 19th-Century American Patent Law Practice

Michael Risch, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, and Mike Viney, Colorado State University, has posted The Way Lawyers Worked, which is forthcoming in volume 90 of the University of Cincinnati Law Review:

Court and litigation operations are opaque in the best of times, and the lack of detailed records from the Nineteenth Century makes it even more difficult to learn how lawyers and judges went about their business. This may be one of the reasons why there are very few accounts of the nuts and bolts of 1800s law practice. This article illuminates the development of litigation and the law in the middle of the Nineteenth Century by examining archival court and Patent Office records.

Most accounts of the time focus either on judicial opinions or the relationship of the parties, but few articles focus on how the lawyers and courts went about their business. Unlike today, when court documents are easily available and often widely published, litigation documents were not generally published in the 1800s. We have unearthed examples to learn about the way lawyers (and courts) worked.

Our journey to investigate the workings of lawyers and courts is facilitated by the apple parer, a kitchen tool of varying complexity designed to peel and sometimes slice apples. Using the first few cases involving parers, this article examines the details about how legal practice and legal precedent were formed in a world absent the technologies that facilitate our communication in modern times. The battle between manufacturers to protect apple parer designs gives a detailed peek behind the dusty opinions we read today.

Our newly acquired archival records yield insights that would be unthinkable today: a lawyer arguing a case before his (judge) brother, printed form complaints with handwritten party names, a learned treatise author omitting the key precedent in briefing, a lawyer testifying about communications with his client, and much more.

--Dan Ernst

The Black Book of Justice Holmes

Just out from Talbot Publishing: The Black Book of Justice Holmes: Text Transcript and Commentary, edited by Michael H. Hoeflich, University of Kansas School of Law, and Ross E. Davies, George Mason University:

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) is one of the most significant figures in American history, both as a judge and as a legal scholar. He was also, without question, one of the most well-read and erudite jurists of his age. Justice Holmes kept his personal notes in a volume that he called the Black Book. For more than 50 years, Holmes filled his Black Book with lists of books he read (including detailed notes on some of them), accounts of his travels, and even observations about flower blooms in Washington, DC, where he served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, and where he lived (except for summers at his place in Beverly Farms, MA) - and continued to make entries in his Black Book - until his death in 1935. This volume gives insight into his mind and activities for a half-century.

Here's the TOC: 

Foreword
The Meaning of “Holmesian”
Stephen R. McAllister

Preface
A Life Without Secrets
Ross E. Davies

Introduction and Apologia
On the Distinction Between Transcription and Edition
M.H. Hoeflich

Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Self-Creation of a Scholar-Jurist
M.H. Hoeflich

The Black Book and PreModern Law
Steven A. Epstein

“The True Reason Appears from the Old Books”: The Reading and Writing of a Common-Law Judge
Ross E. Davies

The Black Book
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Encomia after the jump.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Documents from Nigeria: Fela Kuti’s Legal Troubles

 
In this series, Samuel Fury Childs Daly looks at four legal documents (broadly construed) from Nigeria during its long period of military rule. This is the fourth of four. 

In 1977, the Nigerian military raided the home of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the famous Afrobeat musician. Over a hundred people were injured, his mother was tossed from a window, and the building was burned to the ground. Caving to public pressure, Nigeria’s military government staged a commission of inquiry into the raid. Over the course of several weeks, the commissioners heard not only from Fela, as he was known, but from nearly two hundred of his friends, neighbors, and enemies. The commission’s records run to over a thousand pages, which are full of details about his life and times. There are inventories of the personal effects of his band members, records of his financial dealings, and testaments by his friends, lovers, and rivals. Since Fela is one of Africa’s most celebrated (and complicated) artistic figures, his thick legal record at the Lagos State Research and Archives Board is an important resource for cultural historians as well as for those interested in law. 

Fela’s life captures many of the tensions and contradictions of Nigeria under military rule. His politics were hard to pin down. "[His] political programme, to the extent that he had one, was perpetually under construction," recalled his friend John Howe. "His political judgment was usually hasty, often flawed, sometimes perverse (for example his initial approval of Idi Amin’s antics on the ground that if the Western media were against the Ugandan despot he couldn’t be all bad); but his political prejudices - pro-African, pro-underdog, anti-pomp and anti-injustice – were generally sound."  He abhorred military rule and colonialism, but he also scorned the civilian politicians of the Nigerian First Republic. He venerated "African tradition," but the practices that he called "traditional" were heterodox and creative, and they were not wedded to any particular place. Most would have been unrecognizable to the chiefs who wielded customary power in Nigeria. His biggest supporters were members of an urban, university-educated left who, like Fela himself, came from the upper strata of colonial society, but were moved by the rebellious spirits of the time – Black Consciousness and post-1968 counterculture most prominently. Although people of all walks of life came to his concerts, the people who shared his politics constituted a much smaller slice of Nigerian society. Fela stood on just about every fault line one could find in Nigerian society, and many of them run through the commission’s records. 

"I am the star of this show," he began his testimony when it was his turn to take the stand. "Everybody who comes here must mention Fela’s name, Fela’s house and about Fela’s house being burnt. So, it is important for you to hear me a little bit deeper."  The commission of inquiry was a performance - underscored by the fact that it was held at the National Theatre - but Fela was not the only one on stage. The commissioners were performing too, and they addressed both the Nigerian public and a wider international audience. Fela had devotees across Africa and the African diaspora, and his fans in Europe and North America (of whom he had more with every passing month) paid close attention to how the authorities treated him. His fame was wide enough that the military feared the raid might reflect poorly on Nigeria abroad. Head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo convened the inquiry to perform his government’s accountability, while also making sure that "justice" was rendered on his terms. Obasanjo was not the first of Nigeria’s leaders to find inquiry useful as a judicial tool, nor would he be the last. 

Commissions like the Fela Kuti inquiry were very effective - not at dispensing justice, necessarily, but at simulating it. They were an imitation of law, with judges and pomp, but no standard procedure. Commissions allowed people to vent their frustrations, put those frustrations in print to be handed back to the public, and then closed the matter. Even if a commission of inquiry found evidence of wrongdoing, like the actions of the soldiers who burned down Fela's house, it did not have a mandate to change anything. Its conclusions were advisory, and they could easily be ignored.  Colonial commissions of inquiry had worked in much the same way, and they continued to serve an administrative purpose in many authoritarian states. They were a pressure valve, facilitating public displays of accountability that in no way threatened the order of things. This was a truth known to both of 20th century Nigeria’s varieties of despot - colonial governors on the one hand, and military administrators on the other. 

The records of the commission of inquiry are held, in incomplete form, at the Lagos State Research and Archives Board (LASRAB) in Lagos.


This ends my month as a guest blogger. Thank you for reading, and many thanks to the Legal History Blog's fantastic editorial team for inviting me to contribute. If you're interested in the larger story behind the documents I've discussed this month, some of them will feature in the book I'm currently writing, provisionally entitled Soldier's Paradise: Military Rule in Nigeria.


Miller and Stitz on Discovery Doctrine in East Africa

 Robert J. Miller and Olivia Stitz, Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law have posted The International Law of Colonialism in East Africa: Germany, England, and the Doctrine of Discovery:

The non-European, non-Christian world was colonized under international law that is known today as the Doctrine of Discovery. This common-law international Doctrine was codified into European international law at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 and in the Berlin Act of 1885 specifically to partition and colonize Africa. Thirteen European countries and the United States attended the four month Conference and then thirteen countries signed the Berlin Act on February 26, 1885. Under the Discovery Doctrine and the Berlin Act, European countries claimed superior rights over African nations and Indigenous Peoples. When European explorers planted crosses, signed hundreds of treaties, and raised flags in many parts of Africa, they were making legal claims of ownership and domination over the native nations and peoples, and their lands and assets. These claims were justified in the fifteenth and in the nineteenth centuries by racial, ethnocentric, and religious ideas about the alleged superiority of European Christian nations. This Article examines the application of the Doctrine and the Berlin Act by England and Germany in East Africa, the area that now comprises Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. This comparative law analysis demonstrates convincingly that the Berlin Act and these colonizing countries applied what we define as the ten elements of the Doctrine of Discovery. These elements had been developed and refined by European legal and political systems since the mid-1400s. Over 400 years later, the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 expressly and implicitly adopted and codified all ten elements to control the European partition and colonization of Africa. Germany and England used this international law to colonize East Africa. Needless to say, European domination, exploitation, and colonization seriously injured the human, property, sovereign, and self-determination rights of Indigenous nations and peoples and still impacts them today. The comparative legal analysis set out in this Article will benefit readers to see more clearly how law affected and directed African colonization, and to develop a better understanding of the international law of colonialism, that historic process, the impacts of colonization, and why this knowledge is of crucial importance to us all.

--Dan Ernst

Blair on the Dartmouth College Case and Early Corporation Law

Margaret M. Blair, Vanderbilt University Law School, has posted How Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward Clarified Corporate Law:

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (17 U.S. 4 Wheat 518) in 1819, just as the corporate form of organization was rapidly becoming the preferred legal form for organizing and carrying out a wide range of business activities. The case is most widely-known for its decision that the charter by which the privately-funded eleemosynary institution – Dartmouth College – was founded constituted a “contract” between the state and the founders, thereby bringing it within the jurisdiction and protection of the “Contract Clause” of U.S. Constitution which provides that “No state shall pass any Law impairing the obligation of contracts” (U. S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 10). But the case was arguably more important for clarifying and settling a critical question about the corporate form: it confirmed, unequivocally, that for an “association” to receive the special privileges available to corporations, it must have a government-issued charter. Those privileges include separate entity status, which was especially important for receiving, holding and transferring land, for continuity in contracting, for clear lines of succession, and for litigation to enforce contracts. Prior to this case, courts in the U.S. struggled with deciding what rules to apply to a variety of voluntary associations that lacked government-issued charters. 

--Dan Ernst

Special issue: South Asian labor migrations

The March 2021 issue of the Journal of World History features a special forum on South Asian labor migrations, edited by Neilesh Bose (University of Victoria). Here's the line-up for "Indenture and its Afterlives" in vol.32, no.1, with abstracts:

  • Neilesh Bose, "Introduction: South Asian Migrations in Modern Global Histories"
This introduction to the special forum, "Indenture and its Afterlives" offers a snapshot of three articles by Ashutosh Kumar, Riyad Koya, and Andrea Wright, on topics such as contract, legal history and the abolition of indentured labor, and consent. It situates these contributions within a brief historiography of the study of South Asian migrations in global historical frameworks.
  • Ashutosh Kumar, "Subaltern Mobility and Labor Contract: Indian Indenture in New World History"
Recent work in global history has defined the long-distance labor migration of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, following the demise of Trans-Atlantic slavery, as a global phenomenon. Though an important component of migration studies as well as the history of globalization, this framework struggles to consider the significance of indentured migration from India to the sugar plantations overseas. In the view of Adam McKeown, the indentured were insignificant to global historical change, given that they constituted less than ten percent of global migration between 1846 and 1940. In order to establish the significance of indenture, this essay highlights the uniqueness of the indenture system in terms of workers' rights and welfare as well as the legal framework that provided a new language of freedom and contract. Under this system, laborers bargained with colonial authority, a process, which was fulfilled through amendment of legislation. By highlighting this element of the history of indentured labor, this essay aims to inspire further research into the detailed legal history of the process.
  • Andrea Wright, "From Slaves to Contract Workers: Genealogies of Consent and Security in Indian Labor Migration"
This article examines how the mechanisms used by the British Empire to move indentured workers during the nineteenth were implemented in the twentieth century in order to move Indian workers to the oilfields of the Arabian/Persian Gulf and the continuation of this process into the present. Using archival and ethnographic material, this article explores shifting legal engagements with the discourse of consent and how consent is mobilized in regard to the treatment of migrant laborers. The article then considers how the securitization of oil impacted workers' rights and, particularly, issues around worker consent. Examining the continuation of the mechanisms used to move Indian indentured laborers, in conjunction with a rhetoric of security, gives insight into how the rights of workers have been actively curtailed while simultaneously framed as consensual.
  • Riyad Sadiq Koya, "The Regulation, Division, and Multiplication of Emigrant Labor: The Border between Land and Sea in Colonial India, 1834-1922"
In this article, I argue the significance of the border between land and sea for the regulation of labor migration. I identify an early sense of this border in the East India Company's efforts to prohibit the trafficking of slaves overseas by foreign powers. I focus on a shift in the imaginary of the border with the advent of the indentured labor system. New permits, passes, and registration procedures were implemented to materialize the voluntariness of emigration for indentured laborers. Through an examination of Indian emigration legislation, I trace the continuous recalibration of the border through the differential inclusion of new occupational groups and labor migration streams under the umbrella of state regulation. I reevaluate the campaign for the abolition of indentured labor as a further recalibration of the border between land and sea that distinguished discrete rights of mobility for laboring subjects divided and multiplied by the category of skill.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Edwards, "Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic"

No pun intended, I'm not sure how we overlooked the publication of Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic (University of Alabama Press, 2020), by Erika Denise Edwards (University of North Carolina, Charlotte). It has now won at least two significant awards: the Association of Black Women Historians 2020 Letitia Woods-Brown Award for the best book in African American Women’s History and Western Association of Women Historians Barbara “Penny” Kanner Award, which honors scholarship that "illustrates the use of a specific set of primary sources (diaries, letters, interviews etc.)" (h/t @ABWHTruth). A description from the Press: 

Argentina promotes itself as a country of European immigrants. This makes it an exception to other Latin American countries, which embrace a more mixed—African, Indian, European—heritage. Hiding in Plain Sight: Black Women, the Law, and the Making of a White Argentine Republic traces the origins of what some white Argentines mischaracterize as a “black disappearance” by delving into the intimate lives of black women and explaining how they contributed to the making of a “white” Argentina. Erika Denise Edwards has produced the first comprehensive study in English of the history of African descendants outside of Buenos Aires in the late colonial and early republican periods, with a focus on how these women sought whiteness to better their lives and that of their children.

Edwards argues that attempts by black women to escape the stigma of blackness by recategorizing themselves and their descendants as white began as early as the late eighteenth century, challenging scholars who assert that the black population drastically declined at the end of the nineteenth century because of the whitening or modernization process. She further contends that in Córdoba, Argentina, women of African descent (such as wives, mothers, daughters, and concubines) were instrumental in shaping their own racial reclassifications and destinies.

This volume makes use of a wealth of sources to relate these women’s choices. The sources consulted include city censuses and notarial and probate records that deal with free and enslaved African descendants; criminal, ecclesiastical, and civil court cases; marriages and baptisms records and newsletters. These varied sources provide information about the day-to-day activities of cordobés society and how women of African descent lived, formed relationships, thrived, and partook in the transformation of racial identities in Argentina.

Praise from reviewers:

“Powerfully, this book reinterprets the interrelated constructs of whiteness and nation in Argentina from the perspective of African-descended women. In so doing, Hiding in Plain Sight illuminates the gendered languages and initiatives that made possible black women’s (and their children’s) assertions for legal and social belonging—even as these choices entailed a discursive downplaying of blackness in favor of performing Spanish and indigenous identities. A noteworthy contribution to African diaspora as well as women’s and gender studies, Edwards’s book makes the study of both households and the interior city of Córdoba indispensable to thinking about modern Argentina.” —Celso Thomas Castilho,
 
“Edwards boldly argues that African-descended women in Córdoba employed their clothing choices, motherly responsibilities, and positions as concubines to transform black identities into white privilege. By exploring intimate struggles, Edwards effectively revises Argentina’s national story of black invisibility to a narrative of black agency of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” —Rachel Sarah O’Toole

More information is available here.

-- Karen Tani

Legal and Historical Narratives: A Brazilian View

 [We have the following announcement.  DRE]

WEBINAR: "Legal and Historical Narratives: A Talk with Lira Neto" – 03 May 2021, 10 AM, GMT-3 – Unifacisa, Campina Grande, Brazil – Free of charge

Brazilian historian Lira Neto gathers with jurists to discuss research experiences

Brazilian university center Unifacisa, in Campina Grande, is promoting a debate on “Legal and Historical Narratives” with laureate historian Lira Neto and jurist Marcílio Franca, who is an arbitrator for Mercosur, WIPO and the Court of Arbitration for Art (CAfA). The webinar is hosted by Henrique Lenon, Professor of Legal History.
 
The conference is free of charge and will be transmitted live in Portuguese, but requires previous registration [here].

Lira Neto has published several laureate books in Brazil, including biographies of former Presidents Getúlio Vargas and Castello Branco, musician Maysa and the famous religious leader Cícero Romão of Ceará.

As recently as February, Lira Neto released “Arrancados da Terra”, which depicts the persecution of Jews in Europe and Colonial Brazil during the 17-th century. The author deals with legal proceedings of the Holy Inquisition kept in Portugal, with political and religious issues of the Netherlands, with the Portuguese-Dutch dispute to control Northeastern Brazil and the final destination of then persecuted Jews: New York City.

 “The conference intends to provoke law students and professionals to understand how historians research, reflect and write History”, says Henrique Lenon, who holds a PhD in International and Comparative Law from the University of São Paulo and teaches Legal History and Legal Anthropology at Unifacisa.

Service
Webinar: "Legal and Historical Narratives: A Talk with Lira Neto"  
When: May 03, 2021, at 10 AM (GMT-3)
Language: Portuguese
Registration
Live event, free of charge

CFP: Decolonial Comparative Legal History

[We have the following CFP.  DRE] 

Decolonial comparative legal history: indigenous and global South law prior to colonialism

9-10 September 2022, Oxford, United Kingdom.  Paper submission deadline: 9 February 2022 Decisions: 9 May 2022

Theme.  The second Decolonial Comparative Law Workshop will focus on comparing indigenous law and pre-colonial law, both in settler-colonial regions of the global North and in the area now often referred to as the global South. Decoloniality, as we understand it, promotes a pluriversal understanding of “law,” which means that each society defines and practices law distinctly, such that no society’s law is either universal or inherently superior. In the modern era, the ideology of coloniality promoted narrow expressions of law, particularly (though not exclusively) as “positive law.” In addition, colonizers distinguished positive law from colonial notions of “religious law,” “customary law,” and “native law,” which had significant implications for legal understandings and practices in colonized areas—as well as for the self-understanding of the colonized. Reacting against colonialism, many colonized peoples looked to pre-colonial or indigenous law to counter the hegemony of colonial law. In contemporary courtrooms and political debates, lawyers, legal scholars, and activists dispute the nature and applicability of pre-colonial and indigenous laws. Yet, present concerns and ideas always shape historical inquiry and the pre-colonial or indigenous law that they “excavate” is often a contemporary construct—albeit one based on history, historiography, and memory. We seek to engage critically with indigenous and global South histories, avoiding both romanticized nostalgia and imposing colonial historiographic methods. Although law is pluriversal and historically contingent, colonial law remains hegemonic in historiography and in legal practice. Consequently, pre-colonial and indigenous legal traditions are translated habitually into the language of coloniality. The challenge for scholars of decoloniality is to decolonize the concept of law shared by both colonizers and the colonized. Accordingly, our workshop aims to interweave several objectives: delinking from colonial notions of law; exploring decolonial (legal) historiography; comparing indigenous law in settler-colonized regions and pre-colonial law in colonized regions; offering decolonial translations of pre-colonial law.

Paper Submission.  We invite papers that destabilize coloniality by engaging with how indigenous and global South societies defined or practiced law prior to colonialism. Papers should be based on original research, ideally relying on primary or indigenous sources from prior to the colonial era (broadly defined). Papers should identify “law” in a specific tradition or place, with particular attention to indigenous or pre-colonial epistemologies and practices. Since colonial legal notions continue to distort historiography, we welcome papers that decolonize (i.e., identify and replace) coloniality in the legal historiography of the precolonial global South and indigenous communities. (Authors may want to make use of the bibliographies of decolonial theory and decolonial legal studies provided on the DCL Project website.) Please send your paper to decolonial@mpipriv.de (i) as an attachment in the template provided on the Decolonial Comparative Law Project website (ii) in any language (iii) not exceeding 5000 words (iv) by 9 February 2022. The advisory committee will review all papers and decisions will be sent by 9 May 2022.

Accepted Papers.  Authors of accepted papers will have an opportunity to submit revised versions of their papers for the workshop, with a deadline of 9 June 2022. Submitted papers that are written in a language other than English will be professionally translated. Papers will be pre-circulated prior to the workshop. The workshop will bring together authors of legal historiography with discussants (primarily legal scholars specializing in indigenous, global South, or decolonial legal studies). Authors will not present their papers at the workshop. Final submission of papers will be 9 December 2022. After peer-review, the papers will be published in an edited volume or journal symposium issue.

Organization.  The British Academy Global Professorship and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and Private International Law provide funding for the workshop. Organizers expect to offer two nights of accommodation and travel reimbursement for authors of accepted papers. Authors and discussants will have the option of participating remotely. The Decolonial Comparative Law Workshop is co-organized by Lena Salaymeh (University of Oxford) and Ralf Michaels (Max Planck Institute for Comparative and Private International Law). In addition to the organizers, the ad-visory committee includes Claire Charters (Auckland Law School), Farhat Hasan (University of Delhi), Kentaro Matsubara (University of Tokyo), Ethelia Ruiz Medrano (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia), Blaise Alfred Ngando (Université de Yaoundé 2 – Soa), and Mark Walters (Queen’s University).

Location
.  The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies will host the workshop, which will take place at the University of Oxford. Translation services can be provided at the workshop.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Weekend Roundup

  • Writing in the Washington Post, John Fabian Witt (Yale Law School) reviews Kate Masur's Until Justice Be Done.
  • "The scholarly e-journal Locus-Tijdschrift voor Cultuurwetenschappen, published by the Open University of the Netherlands, seeks papers around the issue of ‘The Coloniality of Natural History Collections.'"  More.  
  • Law, Politics, Public Health and Deadly Epidemics: A Conversation with John Fabian Witt on American Contagions (HNN).
  • Stephen Sachs recalls being in Charles Donahue's legal history course--as an undergraduate (Harvard Crimson).   
  • NARA transcribes documents from United States of America v. Alger Hiss (Catalog).  H/t: JQB
  • Karla Luzmer Escobar Hernández (Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory) wants legal historians to use transmedia history-telling to reach larger audiences. More here.

 Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.