“Le tableau législatif” : colonial law in Martinican society, ca. 1786
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This project examines the articulation and application of colonial law in the French colony of Martinique during the eighteenth century through the work of a legal commentator and colonial magistrate, Pierre Dessalles. His compilation of Martinican laws reveals how local elites applied laws usually promulgated in France. His reliance on European political theorists illustrates the dissemination of legal knowledge across the Atlantic, while his comments and explanation of colonial law in light of Martinique’s history anchor this discussion in a local history. Thus, from Dessalles’ creole, local elite perspective, historians can perceive both the operation and ideology behind Martinican law because this document explicitly presented law (as prescription) and legalities (as practice) together.