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Ordinary Litigants and Colonialism in the Spanish Empire
Author: Bianca Premo
Publisher: Oxford University Press
This is a history of the Enlightenment--the rights-oriented, formalist, secularizing, freedom-inspired eighteenth-century movement that defined modern Western law. But rather than members of a cosmopolitan Republic of Letters, its principal protagonists are non-literate, poor, and enslaved litigants who sued their superiors in the royal courts of Spain's American colonies. Despite growing evidence of the Hispanic world's contributions to Enlightenment science, the writing of history, and statecraft, the region is conventionally believed to have taken an alternate route to modernity. This book grapples with the contradiction between this legacy and eighteenth-century Spanish Americans' active production of concepts fundamental to modern law. The Enlightenment on Trial offers readers new insight into how Spanish imperial subjects created legal documents, fresh interpretations of the intellectual transformations and legal reform policies of the period, and comparative analysis of the volume of civil suits from six regions in Mexico, Peru and Spain. Ordinary litigants in the colonies--far more often than peninsular Spaniards--sued superiors at an accelerating pace in the second half of the eighteenth century. Three types of cases increased even faster than a stunning general rise of civil suits in the colonies: those that slaves, native peasants and women initiated against masters, native leaders and husbands. As they entered court, these litigants advanced a new law-centered culture distinct from the casuistic, justice-oriented legal culture of the early modern period. And they did so at precisely the same time that a few bright minds of Europe enshrined new ideas in print. The conclusion considers why, if this is so, the Spanish empire has remained marginal to the story of the advent of the modern West.
The Uses of Justice in Global Perspective, 1600–1900 presents a new perspective on the uses of justice between 1600 and 1900 and confronts prevailing Eurocentric historiography in its examination of how people of this period made use of the law. Between 1600 and 1900 the towns in Western Europe, the Kingdoms in Eastern Europe, the Empires in Asia and the Colonial States in Asia and the Americas were all characterised by a plurality of legal orders resulting from interactions and negotiations between states, institutions, and people with different backgrounds. Through exploring how justice is used within these different areas of the world, this book offers a broad global perspective, but it also adopts a fresh approach through shifting attention away from states and onto how ordinary people lived with and made use of this ‘legal pluralism’. Containing a wealth of extensively contextualised case studies and contributing to debates on socio-legal history, processes of state formation from below, access to justice, and legal pluralism, The Uses of Justice in Global Perspective, 1600–1900 questions to what degree top-down imposed formal institutions were used and how, and to what degree, bottom-up crafted legal systems were crucial in allowing transactions to happen. It is ideal for students and scholars of early modern justice, crime and legal history.
"This outstanding collection makes available for the first time a remarkable range of primary sources that will enrich courses on women as well as Latin American history more broadly. Within these pages are captivating stories of enslaved African and indigenous women who protest abuse; of women who defend themselves from charges of witchcraft, cross-dressing, and infanticide; of women who travel throughout the empire or are left behind by the men in their lives; and of women’s strategies for making a living in a world of cross-cultural exchanges. Jaffary and Mangan's excellent Introduction and annotations provide context and guide readers to think critically about crucial issues related to the intersections of gender with conquest, religion, work, family, and the law." —Sarah Chambers, University of Minnesota