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Law and Empire in the Longue Durée

23rd and 24th March 2018

Downing College



This workshop will feature a number of rare and searching attempts to identify continuities and differences across ancient, medieval, and modern legal and imperial contexts.

The conference title moves back towards Braudel while also tailing in the direction of all that heat left by David Armitage and Jo Guildi’s fiery interventions in The History Manifesto, calling for newly ambitious historical studies to break from long-set moulds.

Empire lends itself naturally to explorations of this kind using large time-frames. Not only has this to do with the endurance of many empires across centuries, but this also owes to the presence (and comparability) of multiple empires within disaggregated periods.

Legal source materials are helpful for facilitating this kind of approach, whether relating to private law events or the public nature of imperium. In the right hands, legal texts, court records, official opinions, drafted constitutions and acts, along with the correspondences and commentaries relating thereto can push us to contemplate a number of bold conclusions about economics, politics, society, religiosity, and humanity in general.

Contributors have been commissioned to explore a historical topic relevant to law (broadly encompassing legal thought, legal process, public law, private law, judicial institutions, and constitutionalism) OR empire (pertaining either to specific imperial regimes or to imperium as synonym for public authority, measurably autonomous authority, sovereignty, and more), with preference shown to approaches that consider BOTH.

Convenor: Dr Edward Cavanagh, Downing College, ec613@cam