The place and function of custom as a species of law—distinguished from custom as simply polite manners or cherished cultural traditions—has long been a source of research and debate among legal theorists and historians. One school of thought, reflecting the authority of written statute in modern jurisprudence, has relegated custom in a juridical sense to “primitive” societies, whereas proper law belongs to a world of state sovereignty. Other scholars have revisited the continuing validity of custom, including a trenchant body of work on the use (and manipulation) of custom in modern colonial regimes. At the same time, some have seen benefits in the acknowledgment of custom as a source of norms. A 2006 collection of articles, for instance, explored ways in which customary law might serve as a better foundation for the sustainable development of natural resources. As David Bederman has written, “Custom can be a signal strength for any legal system—preliterate or literate, primitive or modern.”
The Meanings and Uses of a Legal Concept in Premodern Europe
When Was Brexit? Reading Backward to the Present
This introductory article lays out the stakes of thinking through the temporalities of Brexit history across multiple fields of vision. It makes the case for books as one archive of Brexit subjects and feelings, and it glosses all the articles in the special issue.
In the wake of Italy's unification, the country's expansionist designs were aimed, as expected, toward the opposite shore of the Mediterranean. The barrage of developments that took place in this strategic area would shape the country's future alliances and colonial policies. The fear of French aggression on the coast of North Africa drove officials in Rome to the camp of the Central Powers, a diplomatic move of great importance for Europe's evolution prior to World War I. The disturbance of the Mediterranean balance of power, when France occupied Tunisia and Britain held Cyprus and Egypt, the inability to find a colony in proximity to Italy, and a series of diplomatic defeats led Roman officials to look to the Red Sea and to provoke war with the Ethiopian Empire.
Cultural Heritages and Their Transmission
Elizabeth C. Macknight
This Spring 2021 issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques is about cultural heritages and their transmission, focusing on the period from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present. An important stimulus for the creation of the issue was the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) in 2018. There were four main themes for the EYCH: protection, engagement, sustainability, and innovation. National coordinators and local organizers of events and initiatives across the continent adopted the unifying slogan “Our Heritage. Where the past meets the future.” The articles brought together here serve as an invitation to readers to continue reflecting on subjects and questions that were at the heart of planning for and supporting public participation in EYCH 2018. The European Year of Cultural Heritage provided myriad opportunities to discover the roles played by individuals and groups in the preservation and valorization of natural sites and landscapes, public monuments, cultural institutions, artifacts, digital resources, and intangible cultural heritage. It highlighted educational initiatives to raise awareness of multiple, diverse cultural heritages within communities and to promote intercultural dialogue. It pushed governments and nongovernmental organizations to address matters of financial investment, legal accountability, partnership management, and the shaping of policies on conservation and ownership rights. It challenged professional historians as well as archivists, librarians, archeologists, conservators, and curators to think hard about widening access and about ways of integrating local, national, and international perspectives when communicating with audiences about surviving traces of the past.
Apprenticeship, Asymmetrical Knowledge, and Large-Scale Production in Britain and France, 1750–1820
Leonard N. Rosenband
Josiah Wedgwood, the Montgolfier family, and Samuel Bentham were leading producers during the early industrial era. A pottery manufacturer, a family of papermakers, and the Inspector-General of Britain's Naval Works, they all occupied the highest perch in their fields. This article considers the efforts by these eminent figures to control the exercise and reproduction of skill in their shops. It examines their attempts to build internal labor markets and blend carefully trained, home-grown hands with novel systems of work discipline and fresh technologies. In doing so, this article assesses the success and limits of the entrepreneurial trio's designs in the coming of mechanized production.
This article takes a history of emotions approach to Scottish illegitimacy in the context of imperial sojourning in the early nineteenth century. Using the archives of a lower-gentry family from Northeast Scotland, it examines the ways in which emotional regimes of the East India Company and Aberdeenshire gentry intersected with the sexual and domestic lives of native Indian women, Scottish farm servant women, and young Scottish bachelors in India. Children of these relationships, White and mixed-race, were the focus of these emotional regimes. The article shows that emotional regimes connected to illegitimacy are a way of looking at the Scottish history of empire.
A New Perspective on C. K. J. Bunsen (1791–1860)
When a hymnbook is placed outside its more expected hymnological environment and put in a wider contextual framework, particularly a political one with significant diplomatic aspects, a better appreciation is gained of the hymnbook and the circumstances of its compilation. Critically, the complexity and progressive transparency of hymn transmission from one country to another is also revealed. This article focuses on Prussian diplomat Christian Karl Josias von Bunsen and his Gesang-und Gebetbuchs (1833). A primary source for several translators, notably Catherine Winkworth (1827–1878), the hymnbook directly affected the movement of many hymns from Germany to England, Scotland, and Australia.
Methods for Historians Attending to the Voices of the Past
How do we thoroughly historicize the voice, or integrate it into our historical research, and how do we account for the mundane daily practices of voice … the constant talking, humming, murmuring, whispering, and mumbling that went on offstage, in living rooms, debating clubs, business meetings, and on the streets? Work across the humanities has provided us with approaches to deal with aspects of voices, vocality, and their sounds. This article considers how we can mobilize and adapt such interdisciplinary methods for the study of history. It charts out a practical approach to attend to the history of voices—including unmusical ones—before recording, drawing on insights from the fields of sound studies, musicology, and performativity. It suggests ways to “listen anew” to familiar sources as well as less conventional source material. And it insists on a combination of analytical approaches focusing on vocabulary, bodily practice, and the questionable particularity of sound.
The Visual Culture of the Congo Free State and Fin de Siècle Europe
Matthew G. Stanard
Studies of the visual culture of the Congo Free State (CFS) have focused overwhelmingly yet narrowly on the “atrocity” photograph used to criticize Leopold II's colonial misrule. This article presents a new picture of the visual culture of Leopold II's Congo Free State by examining a broader, more heterogeneous range of fin de siècle images of varied provenance that comprised the visual culture of the CFS. These include architecture, paintings, African artwork, and public monuments, many of which were positive, pro-Leopoldian images emphasizing a favorable view of colonialism. The visual culture of the CFS was imbued with recurring themes of violence, European heroism, and anti-Arab sentiment, and emerged from a unique, transnational, back-and-forth process whereby Leopold and his critics instrumentalized images to counter each other and achieve their goals.
France’s Great War from the Edge
Susan B. Whitney
World War I has been studied extensively by historians of France and for good reason. Waging the first industrial war required mobilizing all of France's resources, whether military, political, economic, cultural, or imperial. Politicians from the left and the right joined forces to govern the country, priests and seminarians were drafted into the army, factories were retooled to produce armaments and other war material, and women and children were enlisted to do their part. So too were colonial subjects. More than 500,000 men from France's empire fought in Europe for the French Army, while another 200,000 colonial subjects labored in France's wartime workplaces. The human losses were staggering and the political, economic, and cultural reverberations long-lasting, both in the metropole and in the colonies. More than 1.3 million French soldiers and an estimated 71,000 colonial soldiers lost their lives, leaving behind approximately 1.1 million war orphans and 600,000 war widows.