Comparative Studies of Law, Slavery, and Race in the Americas

Posted: 14 Nov 2010

See all articles by Alejandro de la Fuente

Alejandro de la Fuente

University of Pittsburgh

Ariela Julie Gross

University of Southern California Law School

Date Written: December 2010

Abstract

This review surveys the historical research comparing U.S. and Latin American law and slavery and describes how it has informed the development of legal studies of slavery in the Americas. The first generation of comparative work on race and slavery relied heavily on law to draw sharp contrasts between U.S. and Latin American slavery. Revisionist social historians criticized those scholars for providing a misleading top-down history of slavery based on metropolitan codes and instead emphasized demographic and economic factors that suggested pronounced variation in slavery regimes. However, social historians who study relationships of power in slaves' lives have found that they must reckon with law and legal institutions. Recently, legal historians have also begun to explore slave law from the bottom up: through slaves' claims in court, trial-level adjudications, and interactions among ordinary people and low-level government officials. Most studies of slavery stay within one national context, but a few scholars have begun comparative work once more, some examining slavery and freedom in the transnational context of the Atlantic world, others attempting comparisons of manumission in localities across legal regimes.

Suggested Citation

Fuente, Alejandro de la and Gross, Ariela Julie, Comparative Studies of Law, Slavery, and Race in the Americas (December 2010). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 6, pp. 469-485, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1708413 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-102209-152924

Alejandro de la Fuente (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Ariela Julie Gross

University of Southern California Law School ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-4793 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

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