Law and History Review


Slavery and the Law in Atlantic Perspective: Jurisdiction, Jurisprudence, and Justice

Rebecca J. Scott c1

The four articles in this special issue experiment with an innovative set of questions and a variety of methods in order to push the analysis of slavery and the law into new territory. Their scope is broadly Atlantic, encompassing Suriname and Saint-Domingue/Haiti, New York and New Orleans, port cities and coffee plantations. Each essay deals with named individuals in complex circumstances, conveying their predicaments as fine-grained microhistories rather than as shocking anecdotes. Each author, moreover, demonstrates that the moments when law engaged slavery not only reflected but also influenced larger dynamics of sovereignty and jurisprudence.

(Online publication October 20 2011)



Rebecca J. Scott is the Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law at the University of Michigan <>. She is the author of Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery (Harvard University Press, 2005) and co-author with Jean M. Hébrard of Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation (forthcoming, Harvard University Press, 2012). She is currently working on a project on illegal enslavement titled “Under Color of Law.” She thanks Alejandro de la Fuente, Malick Ghachem, Ariela Gross, Martha S. Jones, Beatriz Mamigonian, and Edgardo Pérez Morales for discussions of this introductory essay, which was completed while she was holding a Fellows' Fellowship at the National Humanities Center.