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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Archives and historical records are central to histories of law and legality. Themes and debates in legal history have been shaped, and in some cases even determined by the availability of and access to archival sources. Despite growing critiques of archives as partial, incomplete, and uneven sites of power/ knowledge, ‘the archive’ continues to operate as a site of retrieval and recuperation in legal history. This chapter builds on and expands the author’s earlier work on ‘law’s archive’. which explored how law writes its authority and legitimacy through a double logic of violence: the violence of law and the violence of the archive. In this chapter, this argument is reconsidered through the ocean as legal archive. Oceans productively materialize the tensions between what can be known and unknown of the past. They invite other artefacts, imaginaries, and possibilities for writing legal history, especially those of transatlantic slavery.

Keywords: law, archives, archival history, oceans, racial violence, slavery, legal personhood

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