Îles de France : law and empire in the French Atlantic and Indian Oceans, 1680-1780
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"Îles de France: Law and Empire in the French Atlantic and Indian Oceans, 1680-1780," explores the global dimensions of France’s early modern empire, from “îles” of France like Martinique in the Atlantic and Mauritius (then “Île de France”) in the Indian Ocean to the Parisian core known also as “Île de France.” This empire was anchored by a legal geography of courts known as conseil supérieurs that were established in metropolitan frontier regions like Alsace and new colonies like Martinique and Île de France. In each of these local jurisdictions, French subjects worked out solutions to problems, like bankruptcy and shipwreck, and resisted political threats, like re-enslavement and banishment. Legal practices like court cases and interjudicial correspondence conducted in imperial institutions, especially the conseils, allowed colonial and metropolitan residents to participate in a global community during an era of rapid change from 1680 to 1780. Conseil records capture ideas and practices about law, society, and culture in the lives of those who participated, willingly or not, in France’s overseas empire. I argue that state-building processes like social collaboration and judicial negotiation that have hitherto been considered in European contexts actually occurred on a global scale through the parallel creation and development of courts and legal tools in Europe and overseas colonies. This study thus contributes new insights to work on political processes, legal regimes, and comparative imperialism.