Bonds of Empire: The English Origins of Slave Law in South Carolina and British Plantation America, 1660-1783
Author(s): Lee B. Wilson
Publication Date: 22/7/2021
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Bonds of Empire presents an account of slave law that is entirely new: one in which English law imbued plantation slavery with its staying power even as it insulated slave owners from contemplating the moral implications of owning human beings. Emphasizing practice rather than proscription, the book follows South Carolina colonists as they used English law to maximize the value of the people they treated as property. Doing so reveals that most daily legal practices surrounding slave ownership were derived from English law: colonists categorized enslaved people as property using English legal terms, they bought and sold them with printed English legal forms, and they followed English legal procedures as they litigated over enslaved people in court. Bonds of Empire ultimately shows that plantation slavery and the laws that governed it were not beyond the pale of English imperial legal history; they were yet another invidious manifestation of English law's protean potential.
- Offers a clear explanation of the relationship between early modern English law and the expansion of slavery
- Uses South Carolina as a case study against the larger trends of the Atlantic World
- Highlights how law played a role in limiting slave resistance