For those in the Boston area on Feb. 27, here’s a nice image of a panel I will be doing at Brandeis that afternoon/evening on “The Limits of Revolution” with Chris Brown, Suzanne Desan, and myself. The panel is part of the Brandeis Sawyer Seminar Rethinking the Age of Revolution (directed by Jane Kamensky and Sue Lanser with their fabulous postdoc fellow Julia Gaffield):
I am thrilled and delighted that my old friends at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island (a favorite research location) have remounted a new version of the 2004 exhibition that I curated in connection with the JCB’s bicentennial conference on the Haitian Revolution. The exhibition is open now through the end of April 2014 and is accompanied by a wonderful digital version that you can access here. The new version of the exhibition is part of a collaboration between the JCB and the New York Historical Society. If you have not yet seen the scintillating essays in the NYHS’s Revolution! volume that came out a few years ago (edited by Rabinowitz, Dubois, and Bender), by all means hasten to read them. Thanks so much to Susan Danforth, the JCB’s George S. Parker Curator of Maps and Prints, for all she did to make this new edition of the exhibition possible, and to Leslie Tobias Olsen for work on the website version. Looking forward to marking the occasion with a lecture on Haiti at the JCB on March 8 and, even before then, at a Feb. 21 panel that is part of the “Curators on International Slavery” series at Brown on Feb. 20-21, 2014.
This year is the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Peace of Paris ending the Seven Years War, and today marks 250 years to the day since King George III issued his Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763 reorganizing the British North American empire in the aftermath of that war. Partly as a provocation, I sometimes tell folks that the Seven Years War and the diplomatic arrangements that ended it constitute the single most important set of events in modern Atlantic history. Of course, on its face such an assertion is relatively meaningless: everything gives rise to everything else, back to the beginning of time. But as a statement about the context out of which the Atlantic revolutionary era and thus the modern Atlantic world arises, it is hard to dispute. Consider the following three massive land transfers or settlements that were occasioned by the war: “Canada” goes from the French to the British, “Louisiana” goes from the Spanish to the French, and “India” comes under the undisputed domination of the British (though the French Company of the Indies retained its principal trading ports along the Coromandel coast, most notably Pondichéry). And that is just the beginning of the story: I am leaving out here the transformation of the Caribbean and the impact on the European sphere, for this was indeed arguably the first global military conflict. “Things like this” just did not happen every day in the eighteenth century or in any other century. So the next time my students react skeptically to another of my breathless evocations of the astonishing significance of the Seven Years War, I ask them to consider, as dispassionately as possible, the raw evidence!
This past Friday I went with a small group of my students from “How to Stage a Revolution” to see the Bostonian Society‘s wonderful (and now, sadly, closed) exhibit “1763: A Revolutionary Peace,” at the Old State House in Boston. (The Bostonian Society is the organization now in charge of preserving the Old State House, the location of the Massachusetts colonial governor’s office and council chambers, and the backdrop to the 1770 Boston Massacre of John Adams fame.) Thanks to Nat Sheidley, director of public history programs for the Society, and Donald Carlton, project director for the Peace of 1763 Commemoration, for a memorable tour, and for sharing their images of three extraordinary documents produced by the Seven Years War conflict. The first is the signature page of Britain’s original manuscript copy of the Peace of Paris treaty, signed Feb. 10, 1763:
The second is a 1755 proclamation by Massachusetts Lieut. Governor Phips setting prices on the heads of Penobscott Indians (three different prices, one for men, another for women, and a third for children of either sex under twelve).
And the third is the the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which, among other things, barred the American colonists from settling (further) into Indian country west of the Appalachian mountains (look to the final provisions at the lower right for the language in question):
There you have it. Three extraordinary documents, one extraordinary war. The Junto (an early Americanists blog) has an interesting post today on the Bostonian Society’s roundtable of this past Friday (Oct. 4) on the Royal Proclamation and the Seven Years War, wherein I learned of the energetic efforts of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies to recall especially the American Indian dimensions of the Seven Years War, including by way of a forthcoming conference on the December 1763 Conestoga Massacre carried out by the Paxton Boys (and denounced by Benjamin Franklin in a famous pamphlet).
From Nomi Stolzenberg et al.:
“The University of Southern California Center for Law, History & Culture, UCLA School of Law, Columbia Law School, and Georgetown University Law School invite submissions for the tenth meeting of the Law & Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop to be held at USC School of Law in Los Angeles, CA on June 8 & 9, 2014.
The paper competition is open to untenured professors, advanced graduate students, and post-doctoral scholars in law and the humanities; in addition to drawing from numerous humanistic fields, we welcome critical, qualitative work in the social sciences. Based on anonymous evaluation by an interdisciplinary selection committee, between five and ten papers will be chosen for presentation at the June Workshop. At the Workshop, two senior scholars will comment on each paper. Commentators and other Workshop participants will be asked to focus specifically on the strengths and weaknesses of the selected scholarly projects, with respect to subject and methodology. The selected papers will then serve as the basis for a larger conversation among all the participants about the evolving standards by which we judge excellence and creativity in interdisciplinary scholarship, as well as about the nature of interdisciplinarity itself.
Papers should be works-in-progress between 10,000 and 15,000 words in length (including footnotes/endnotes), and must include an abstract of no more than 200 words. A dissertation chapter may be submitted, but we strongly suggest that it be edited so that it stands alone as a piece of work with its own integrity. A paper that has been submitted for publication is eligible so long as it will not be in galley proofs or in print at the time of the Workshop. The selected papers will appear in a special issue of the Legal Scholarship Network; there is no other publication commitment. The Workshop will pay the travel and hotel expenses of authors whose papers are selected for presentation.
Submissions (in Word, no pdf files) will be accepted until January 6, 2014, and should be sent by e-mail to: Center for the Study of Law and Culture, email@example.com.Please be sure to include your name, institutional affiliation (if any), telephone and e-mail contact information.
For more information contact Cindy Gao, 212.854.0167 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and to see past winners go to:http://www.law.columbia.edu/center_program/law_culture/lh_workshop.
For a long time (longer than I care to admit) I have wanted to teach a history course on the Atlantic revolutionary era that would bridge the American, French, and Haitian revolutions. Last fall, I offered a legal history seminar entitled “Law and Revolution” that was a first effort towards this end. This fall, in conjunction with my wonderful new colleagues Craig Wilder and Jeff Ravel, I am finally doing so for an undergraduate audience. Together, the three of us are co-teaching a mainstay of the MIT History curriculum, a course entitled “How to Stage a Revolution,” a unique offering founded some years ago by Meg Jacobs. Each year the content of the course varies: some years, for example, the Russian and Turkish revolutions are in, and others out. This fall the modules have converged around an eighteenth-century Atlantic focus (with a contemporary overlay featuring Egypt between 2011 and the present), and so far I am having more riotously good fun than should be legal in a well-ordered society. (I suppose we could always rename the course “How to Quash a Revolution” if word gets out and/or this continues!) We are part-way through the American Revolution module (taught by Professor Wilder) and, after a long hiatus from “pure” history teaching, I am re-learning things about the revolutionary era that had begun to fade from memory (when was the last time you reread your high school copies of Richard Hofstadter and Edmund Morgan?!), and learning anew many others — in this module, particularly about the intersection between American Indians and the revolutionary crisis. You can find the syllabus here, and the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) site for a previous version of the course here. Long live “How to Stage a Revolution”!
The William and Mary Quarterly and the USC-Huntington Library Early Modern Studies Institute are putting on a workshop in May 2014 entitled “The Age of Revolutions.” You can find the call for proposals here. The convener is Sarah Knott of Indiana University. (Hat tip: Julia Gaffield.)
2013-2014 promises a number of exciting new conferences and lectures on the legal history of the Atlantic revolutionary era. Coming up very soon (Sept. 12-14, 2013) is this conference in Paris, “Colloque Rev-Loi : La loi en Révolution 1789-1795. Fonder l’ordre et établir la norme,” at the Archives nationales and the Université Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). You can find a PDF of the program here.
At various points throughout the 2013-2014 academic year, Brandeis University will host public sessions of a Sawyer Seminar entitled “Rethinking The Age of Revolution: Rights, Representation, and the Global Imaginary.” This seminar is directed by Sue Lanser and Jane Kamensky.
In February 2014, the Massachusetts Historical Society will host a panel discussion on “Law and the American Revolution.”
Looking to the recent past, the legal history of the French Caribbean colonies has been the focus of a number of conferences, including a wonderful event (in which I was privileged to participate) on “The Haitian Declaration of Independence in an Atlantic Context,” organized by Julia Gaffield and Andrew O’Shaughnessy, held this past March at Monticello. And a few years ago, the Institut d’Histoire de la Révolution française held a conference on law and the colonies in the French and Haitian revolutionary era, the program for which is here.
As I hear of more such events, I will post to the “Conferences and Lectures” page of this website, above.
This is the first entry in a new website I began designing in the dog days of summer. The idea is to create a forum of sorts for engaging with work being done by others writing on a mix of legal and historical topics of the day: not exactly “what’s on the front page?” or “what’s happening in the scholarship of the Atlantic revolutions?” but rather something in between these two poles and also (ideally) reflective of their intersection. Which legal issues? My main interests are criminal law and procedure and certain fields of constitutional law (primarily religious liberty, but also free speech, equal protection, and constitutional theory to some extent). What about the “Atlantic revolutionary tradition”? Each word in that phrase could and probably would give rise to an extended argument in a graduate seminar or scholarly journal. For the most part, I mean the phrase simply to denote the three revolutions of which I have some knowledge and in which I am most interested: the American, French, and Haitian revolutions of the late eighteenth century. Certainly the Spanish American revolutions of the early nineteenth century also fall within the definition of the phrase, and on occasion I may write about those events as well, but my overwhelming emphasis is on North Atlantic and Caribbean matters. The “Atlantic revolutionary tradition” is not the same as the history of the Atlantic revolutions, though these subjects obviously overlap. And though I use the singular in the subtitle of this website, it is probably more accurate to speak of multiple and competing traditions: American, French, Haitian, etc. But what is true in all three (and more) cases, I think, is that the history of these events is alive today in too many ways to count, and so it makes sense to think of those histories as giving rise to a tradition (or set of traditions) that survives the events in question. One dimension of this survival involves the intersection between the events and ideas of the Atlantic revolutions, on the one hand, and contemporary legal and constitutional issues, on the other. That’s my principal interest here.
Enough of a prospectus. This is not a manifesto or contract, and I reserve to right (as lawyers if not also historians will do in any event) to write about things that fall within the general parameters of my subjects and themes! Above all, the purpose is to have fun: to enjoy reading and writing in a forum different from the ones that traditional scholarly life usually affords. I welcome your thoughts and reactions, whether by way of posting a reply to any of my posts or by using the contact form at the top menu to reach me.
Thanks for visiting.
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