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Legal Frameworks and Economic Practices Around Slave Labour in Colonial Society

The recording of the conference (in French) is now available
4 November, 2015

This talk by Professor Jean-François Niort forms part of the broader series “Slavery Old and New: Labour Exploitation Through the Ages and Around the Globe” – a joint initiative from McGill’s Oppenheimer Chair, the Institute of Comparative Law, and the Harriet Tubman Institute at York. This particular event is also co-organized and partially funded by the Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law.

**This talk will be given in French.**

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Room 107, Burnside Hall

Lunch will be provided. RSVPs at are appreciated.

Legal Frameworks and Economic Practices Around Slave Labour in Colonial Society: The Case of the French West Indies (Guadeloupe-Martinique) in the 18th Century

This talk aims to clarify the relationship between the legal frameworks and economic practices around slave labour in colonial society of the Little French West Indies (“Petites Antilles” : Guadeloupe et Martinique) through the evolution of legal rules in the 18th century. Two enactments were particularly significant: the Royal decree (“Edit”) of March 1685 regulating slavery in the French colonies (commonly referred to as the “Code Noir” or ‘’Black Code’’) and the Decree (“Ordonnance”) of the Governor General of the West Indies on the ‘’police générale des nègres et gens de couleur’’ of December 1783.

Indeed, by comparing the two enactments and their incentives, we notice, on one hand, the nature and magnitude of the economic practices already identified by historians (such as G. Bebien, J. Fallope, A. Perotin-Dumon, F. Régent, C. Oudin-Bastide). On the other hand, we also uncover the modalities with which colonial authorities have tried to supervise and regulate these economic practices since the 17th century, with varying success.

All of this confirms the overall pattern of a highly complex colonial society where each group of social actors (different social categories of slaves and owner-inhabitants, central State, as well as different types of local colonial authorities) defends its own economic interests in the context of a common strategy of avoidance and circumvention of the law – which led to the recurrent reaffirmation of the legal norm – to its solidification and adaptation nearly proportional to its degree of practical inefficiency.

Jean-François Niort
Le Professeur Niort est Maître de conférences habilité à diriger les recherches en Histoire du droit et des institutions et qualifié en Science politique. Membre de la Faculté des Sciences juridiques et économiques de la Guadeloupe (BP 270, 97157 Pointe-à-Pitre Cedex), il est également Responsable du département Histoire du CAGI (pôle Guadeloupe du CRPLC, UMR 8053) et du Groupe de Recherche et d’Etudes sur l’Histoire des Droits et des Institutions des Outre Mers (GREHDIOM).

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