Voices in the Legal Archives in the French Colonial World: "The King is Listening" offers, through the contribution of thirteen original chapters, a sustained analysis of judicial practices and litigation during the first era of French overseas expansion.

The overall goal of this volume is to elaborate a more sophisticated "social history of colonialism" by focusing largely on the eighteenth century, extending roughly from 1700 until the conclusion of the Age of Revolutions in the 1830s. By critically examining legal practices and litigation in the French colonial world, in both its Atlantic and Oceanic extensions, this volume of essays has sought to interrogate the naturalized equation between law and empire, an idea premised on the idea of law as a set of doctrines and codified procedures originating in the metropolis and then transmitted to the colonies. This book advances new approaches and methods in writing a history of the French empire, one which views state authority as more unstable and contested. Voices in the Legal Archives proposes to remedy the under-theorized state of France’s first colonial empire, as opposed to its post-1830 imperial expressions empire, which have garnered far more scholarly attention.

This book will appeal to scholars of French history and the comparative history of European empires and colonialism.

chapter |60 pages


“The King is Listening” 1 – Toward a Social and Political History of Legal Pluralism in the Early Modern French Empire

part I|51 pages

Reading Colonial Legal Records Against the Grain

chapter 1|25 pages

Controlling Haitian History

The Legal Archive of Moreau de Saint-Méry 1

chapter 2|24 pages

Proof of Freedom, Proof of Enslavement

The Limits of Documentation in Colonial Saint-Domingue

part II|58 pages

Between Metropole and Periphery

chapter 3|13 pages

Silencing Madmen

The Legal Process of Interdiction, Saint-Domingue, Eighteenth Century

chapter 5|19 pages

Contesting the Seigneurial Corvée

Two Generations of Peasant Litigation in Eighteenth-Century Angoumois

part III|69 pages

Chains of Property and Obligation

chapter 6|20 pages

Between Property and Person

The Ambiguous Status of Slaves in Eighteenth-Century Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue 1

chapter 8|25 pages

The Inhabitants “Appear Are Not Such Fools as a Menny Thinks” 1

Credit, Debt and Peasant Litigation in Post-Conquest Quebec

part IV|63 pages

Circuits of Power and the Testimony of the Marginal

chapter 9|15 pages

The Voice of the Litigant, the Voice of the Spokesman?

The Role of Interpreters in Trials in Canada Under the French Regime (Seventeenth–Eighteenth Centuries)

chapter 10|23 pages

Voices of Litigating Women in New France During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Elements of Research on the Judicial Culture of the Appellants in the Archives of the Royal Jurisdiction of Montreal (1693–1760) 1

chapter 11|23 pages

Slaves as Witnesses, Slaves as Evidence

French and British Prosecution of the Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean

part V|47 pages

Divided Sovereignties, Legal Hybridities

chapter 12|23 pages

When French Islands Became British

Law, Property and Inheritance in the Ceded Islands

chapter 13|22 pages

Contested Spaces of Law and Economy

Legal Hybridity and the Marital Economy Within Quebec’s Merchant Communities