Events Archive


What is a Legal Archive?
20 November 2019
A workshop organized by Kalyani Ramnath in collaboration with the American Society for Legal History and held at the Center for History and Economics, Harvard University. This workshop brought together historians of South Asia and Latin America working on projects about law, paperwork, bureaucracy, and procedure who were interested in examining questions such as 'What are the archives of law?' and 'What definitions and notions of law do we work with as we assemble, read and interpret archive sources?' Scholars drew upon their engagement with legal sources and records, as well as their own approach to 'reading' legal materials. They also looked at the promise and perils of working with fragmented archives, with sources in multiple languages, and in multiple geographical locations. In the course of discussions, questions were raised about knowledge production, indigenous agency, and governance. By looking at different frameworks that are constructed around 'archive stories' and considering the legal encounter alongside the archival encounter, the hope was to arrive at creative and critical rethinking of what constitutes a legal archive and how it is constructed and read.


Writing Legal Lives
21 September 2019
A one-day workshop at the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University organized by Catherine Evans, Kalyani Ramnath and Fei-Hsien Wang. Participants explored different approaches to writing legal lives, writing legal histories of individuals and communities, and the limits to legal life writing. The conversations centered on the nineteenth and twentieth century accounts of people, places and things that they initially encountered through legal records. They also focused on substantive, methodological and ethical dilemmas that they had faced as historians, researchers and interlocutors.


Spaces of Law
4 October 2018
A one day workshop at the Harvard Center for History and Economic organised by Franziska Exeler and Kalyani Ramnath. Nöelle Herrenschmidt and US District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock discussed Nöelle's illustrated book documenting the everyday life of the Boston Courthouse. Guests included Sunil Amrith, Shane Bobrycki, Niko Bowie, Ruth Coffey, Ian Kumekawa, Ken Mack, Ben Sacks and Jon Spack.


War, Law and Crime. Legal histories of the second world war and its aftermath
25-26 May 2018
This two-day workshop, organised by Franziska Exeler and Lily Chang (UCL) as part of the Mellon programme on Exchanges of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas, took place in Magdalene College, Cambridge. It brought together historians who are interested in new approaches to legal histories of war. The focus was on the Second World War and its aftermath, examining the intersection of law and war and its post-war consequences.


Urban History: Space, Place and Connections
9-10 June 2017
The workshop was organised by Franziska Exeler in collaboration with the Free University of Berlin and brought together historians who are pursuing new directions and questions in urban history. ‘City’ is understood here as a place where the local and the global converge. By viewing the city as a lens into a variety of political, social, economic and cultural issues, the workshop explored ruptures and continuities between colonial and post-colonial cities, migration, memory and the legacies of empire, and transfers of knowledge and experts.


The French Empire: Comparisons, Exchanges and Collaborations
27 June 2016
University of Cambridge

The workshop brought together PhD candidates working on France and its empire from a comparative and connective perspective especially with Britain and its empire. These included students from France (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Britain (Cambridge, Oxford, London) and the United States (Harvard). A major theme was the dynamics of emulation and collaboration between the French and British empires since the eighteenth century, from exchanges of ideas to institutional cooperation in the form of condominia in the late nineteenth century. Other themes included slavery in the French Empire, exchanges between France and India, and French colonial law.
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Law in Modern History: Social and Political Explorations
23 January 2016
University of Cambridge

This one-day workshop, organized by Catherine Evans and Franziska Exeler, brought together historians and lawyers who are particularly interested in the social and political dimensions of law. The focus was on the modern period, from the eighteenth century to the present day. Covering a variety of different regions and societies, the participants analyzed the functions and meanings that law can have beyond specific legal or political systems. They also discussed how in the past and in the present, international, national and local actors received, appropriated, utilized or even created law, and how these processes in turn affected the relationship between state and society.
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Legal History in Global Perspective
12 December 2015
Harvard University

‘Legal History in Global Perspective’ was a one-day workshop organized by Catherine Evans and Kirsty Walker for scholars developing new projects in the field of global legal history. Participants expressed a strong commitment to narrative, densely archival studies, and to the effort to consider the legal lives of relatively non-elite actors, from middling administrators, legal authorities and civil servants to sailors, labourers, and villagers. Several papers explored the ways in which legal categories and discourses were understood and mobilized in everyday life, revealing legal cultures embedded in social and economic practices. Many centered on histories rooted in both the local and the global, using individual cases to engage with and challenge key debates of imperial histories, migration and diaspora, and the practices of international law.


France and Its Empire in the Global Economy
10 June 2015
University of Cambridge

A one-day workshop organized by David Todd, Renaud Morieux, Emma Rothschild and Pierre Singaravélou took place on 10 June 2015 at Trinity Hall, as part of the program on Cordial Exchanges: Britain and France in the World since 1700. The workshop explored the new global economic history of France and its empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, in a comparative and connective perspective with the economic history of Britain and its empire. The participants examined new quantitative, political and cultural approaches to France's formal empire, the financial aspects of France's global power and the impact of global economic expansion on the modern French state and society. Such perspectives facilitated a reappraisal of the French dimension of nineteenth-century globalization and brought to light the ways in which it complemented as well as competed with the better known British – or Anglo-American – dimension.


Workshop on Petitions and Political Cultures in South Asia
4 - 5 June 2014
Magdalene College, Cambridge

Organizers: Rohit De (Cambridge) and Robert Travers (Cornell)

This two-day workshop took place as part of the Exchanges of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas programme.

Though petitioning has a long and rich history in South Asia, the changing genres and languages of petitions have only recently attracted systematic attention from South Asian historians. We hoped through the workshop to turn to petitions and petitioning as a lens to examine political ideas and political culture in everyday life over the longue durée. Petitions were instruments through which people could communicate their disagreement or express their desires and will to the dominant, but the form and content of petitions were also mediated by scribal and political elites. They were rooted in specific traditions and languages, drew upon different genres of speech and were channeled through various intermediaries. This makes petitions in South Asia an exciting resource to think about the political space of the everyday, and about political thought in practice.

The workshop aimed at bringing together scholars from different periods of South Asian history (early modern, colonial, and contemporary) who are often not in conversation with one another. It brought into focus the question of changing state structures and relationships with individuals and communities, and considered the methodological and theoretical challenges raised by petitions. We hoped that focusing on changing genres of petitioning across time could illuminate some of the critical issues in current South Asian historiography, including (but not limited to) questions of historical memory, the formation of publics, ideas of law and subject hood, and changing understandings of the role of the state.


Defining the Economy in Political Crisis: Revolution, Rupture and the Law
Friday 4 October 2013
Harvard University
Historians and social scientists have turned to examine the relationship between economics and its object. Scholars increasingly argue that the 'economy' itself is a recent product of socio-political practice. With the integration of markets and the rise of global economic institutions, there is a tendency to see this as a universal process playing out similarly in different jurisdictions. The aim of this meeting was to examine how contingency, violence and ideologies were involved in redefining the economy. How was the economy constructed after revolutionary change or decolonization? What tools and technologies did new political orders adopt? Given that drastic political change was accompanied by both chaos and violence, we are interested in examining the ways in which the contingencies of the everyday shaped conceptions of property, wealth, exchange and commodities. The workshop also examined the ways in which the the 'economy' is a creature of laws and regulations. In the workshop we hoped to bring into focus not just the processes of law making, but also the everyday life of the law and the role it plays in constructing the economy.
Workshop Program »


Commerce, Corporations and the Law
27-28 September 2013, Princeton
The History Project, in cooperation with The History Department at Princeton University and the Joint Center for History and Economics, held its second conference on 27 - 28 September 2013 at Princeton University. The conference was concerned with cross-cultural trade, firms, and legal systems around the world. The History Project is supported by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, with the object of encouraging a new generation of historians of the economy and economic life.


Exchanges of legal ideas and practices: Britain, France and their empires since 1700
8 July 2013
The workshop, organised by Renaud Morieux, Emma Rothschild, Pierre Singaravélou and David Todd and held in Cambridge, considered law as a field of practical as well as intellectual exchanges across national borders.
Programme »


Civil Rights Lawyers in American Legal Historiography
8 July 2013 5.30pm
Old Combination Room, Trinity College
Professor Kenneth Mack
Lawrence Biele Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (Harvard Univesity Press, 2012)
Comments by Professor Catherine Barnard and Professor Emma Rothschild
Talk co-hosted by the Centre for History and Economics and the Centre for European Legal Studies


History of Copyright and Intellectual Property
1pm - 4.30pm
Forum on Open Access
5pm – 7pm
1 July 2013

A discussion took place in The Parlour and Cripps Auditorium, Magdalene College on 1 July 2013 about the history of copyright and open access. Participants included Peter Baldwin (UCLA), Anne Jarvis (University Librarian, Cambridge), Ira Katznelson (Columbia/SSRC), Rachel Leow (Harvard), Peter Phillips (Chief Executive, Cambridge University Press), Emma Rothschild (Harvard/Cambridge) and Fei-Hsien Wang (Magdalene College, Cambridge).
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Recovering Law in Asia
16 March 2013
A one-day workshop, organised by Rohit De and Fei-Hsien Wang in connection with the project on Exchanges of Economic, Legal and Political Ideas, took place in Trinity Hall, Cambridge, on 16 March 2013. The aim of the workshop was to explore the processes through which seemingly alien legal systems were adapted by Asian societies, and the new institutions and practices that emerged as its result. By focusing on a number of Asian societies, the meeting hoped to bring together disciplines and histories that are rarely in conversation with one another, to identify similar phenomena that happen in different regions and also uncover legal connections between Asian societies.
Schedule »
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