Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History: Law and the French Atlantic

Friday, October 05, 2012
Newberry Library, Chicago
9:00 AM–5:00 PM

Organized by: Allan Greer (McGill University) and Richard J. Ross (University of Illinois)

The French Atlantic has not yet received the sustained attention given to the British and Spanish Atlantic, particularly where the topic of law is concerned. This conference will explore the legal dimension (broadly conceived) of the French Atlantic empire in the early modern period. The variegated and rapidly evolving juridical order of ancient régime France was deeply implicated in the expansion of overseas commerce, the founding of colonies, and the creation of imperial administrations. 

Participants may explore topics such as: legal discourse and imperial ideologies; the establishment of colonial jurisdictions in Canada, Louisiana, and the French West Indies; the regulation of slavery; indigenous peoples and the law; the emergence of colonial land tenures; and the legal framework for trade and business enterprise. The organizers wish particularly to encourage comparative approaches that consider more than one French colony and that examine contrasts and convergences with the British, Spanish and Portuguese empires. In according due attention to the distinctive features of French law and the French New World empire, we hope to enrich understandings of Atlantic history generally. 

Allan Greer (McGill History) and Richard Ross (Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Law and History) organized “Law and the French Atlantic.”  The conference is an offering of the Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History, which gathers yearly under the auspices of the Center for Renaissance Studies 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. Participants and attendees should preregister by contacting the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library at 312.255.3514, or send an e-mail to renaissance@newberry.org. Papers will be precirculated electronically to all registrants.  

For information about the conference, please consult our website or contact Prof. Richard Ross at Rjross@illinois.edu or at 217-244-7890. 

Program and Schedule:

9:00 Welcome: Allan Greer (McGill, History) and Richard Ross (University of Illinois, Law and History)

9:05 to 10:35: Panel: The Legal Foundations of the French Atlantic Empire

  • Alexandre Dubé (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture): “The Army, the Navy, the Governor, and the Colony: Frameworks of Public Law in the French Atlantic”
  • Brett Rushforth (William and Mary, History): “‘Governed by the Same Laws, without Distinction or Difference’: Legal Pluralism and the Construction of Empire in the Early Modern French Atlantic”
  • Miranda Spieler (Arizona, History): “Slaves and the Old Regime: The View from Paris”
  • Commentator: David Bell (Princeton, History)
  • Chair: Richard Ross (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Law and History)

10:35 to 10:50: Refreshment Break

10:50 to 12:20: Panel: Economy and Empire

  • Allan Greer (McGill, History): “A Feudal Empire?  Land Tenure in the French Atlantic”
  • Helen Dewar (University of Toronto, History): “Company Logic Meets Legal Accountability: The Question of Liability of Chartered Enterprises in the Mid-17-Century French Atlantic”
  • Catherine Desbarats(McGill, History): “Payback for Default:  Legalities of Counterfeit in the French Atlantic”
  • Commentator: Paul Cheney (University of Chicago, History)
  • Chair: To be announced

12:20 to 1:40: Lunch: Participants and audience members are invited to try the restaurants in the neighborhood around the Newberry. 

1:40 to 3:10: Panel: Slavery and the Code Noir

  • Guillaume Aubert (William and Mary, History): “Beyond the Codes Noirs: The Making of Slave Law(s) in the Early Modern French Atlantic”
  • Jean-François Niort (Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Law): “The Code Noir and the Evolution of the French Slave Colonial Law: A New Perspective”
  • Malick Ghachem (Maine, Law): “The Afterlife of the Law of Slavery: The Code Noir and the Language of Rights in the Era of the Haitian Revolution”
  • Commentator #1: Jean Hébrard(Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales; and University of Michigan, History) 
  • Commentator #2 and Chair: Lea Vandervelde(Iowa, Law)

3:10 to 3:25: Refreshment Break

3:25 to 4:55 Panel: The Seven Years’ War and After

  • Christian Crouch(Bard, History): “Indians Out of the Shadows and into the Plot: Tracing Indigenous Voices in Building a French Atlantic Case for Just War”
  • Michel Morin(Université de Montréal, Law): “The Reactions of the ‘New’ Subjects of Quebec to British Justice for Private Law Matters, 1760-1774”
  • Hannah Weiss Muller(Harvard, History and Literature): “From French to British: Remonstrance, Representation, and Remediation between Empires”
  • Commentator #1: Shannon Lee Dawdy(University of Chicago, Anthropology)
  • Commentator #2 and Chair: Robert Morrissey(University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, History)

5:00 Adjourn