The Legal History Podcast
EPISODE 26: Samuel Fury Childs Daly

EPISODE 26: Samuel Fury Childs Daly

July 28, 2021

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Samuel Fury Childs Daly about his J. Willard Hurst Prize winning book A History of the Republic of Biafra: Law, Crime, and the Nigerian Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Daly is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and History at Duke University. He is a historian of twentieth century Africa whose research combines legal, military, and social history to describe Africa's history since independence.

The Republic of Biafra lasted for less than three years, but the war over its secession would contort Nigeria for decades to come. Samuel Fury Childs Daly examines the history of the Nigerian Civil War and its aftermath from an uncommon vantage point – the courtroom. Wartime Biafra was glutted with firearms, wracked by famine, and administered by a government that buckled under the weight of the conflict. In these dangerous conditions, many people survived by engaging in fraud, extortion, and armed violence. When the fighting ended in 1970, these survival tactics endured, even though Biafra itself disappeared from the map. Based on research using an original archive of legal records and oral histories, Daly catalogues how people navigated conditions of extreme hardship on the war front, and shows how the conditions of the Nigerian Civil War paved the way for the country's long experience of crime that was to follow.

EPISODE 25: Nurfadzilah Yahaya

EPISODE 25: Nurfadzilah Yahaya

May 24, 2021

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Nurfadzilah Yahaya about her book Fluid Jurisdictions: Colonial Law and Arabs in Southeast Asia (Cornell University Press, 2020). She is Assistant Professor of History at the National University of Singapore where she specializes in the history of the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, Islamic law, and mobilities. Her second book project will be on the history of land reclamation in the British Empire.

This wide-ranging, geographically ambitious book tells the story of the Arab diaspora within the context of British and Dutch colonialism, unpacking the community's ambiguous embrace of European colonial authority in Southeast Asia. In Fluid Jurisdictions, Nurfadzilah Yahaya looks at colonial legal infrastructure and discusses how it impacted, and was impacted by, Islam and ethnicity. But more important, she follows the actors who used this framework to advance their particular interests.

EPISODE 24: Joseph David

EPISODE 24: Joseph David

February 5, 2021

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Joseph E. David about his book Kinship, Law and Politics: An Anatomy of Belonging (CUP, 2020). David is a Visiting Professor (Adjunct) of Law at Yale Law School and a Visiting Professor at the Program in Judaic Studies at Yale University. He is an Associate Professor of Law at Sapir Academic College in Israel. His research focuses on Law and Religion, Legal History, Comparative Law, and Jurisprudence.

Why are we so concerned with belonging? In what ways does our belonging constitute our identity? Is belonging a universal concept or a culturally dependent value? How does belonging situate and motivate us? Joseph E. David grapples with these questions through a genealogical analysis of ideas and concepts of belonging. His book transports readers to crucial historical moments in which perceptions of belonging have been formed, transformed, or dismantled. The cases presented here focus on the pivotal role played by belonging in kinship, law, and political order, stretching across cultural and religious contexts from eleventh-century Mediterranean religious legal debates to twentieth-century statist liberalism in Western societies. With his thorough inquiry into diverse discourses of belonging, David pushes past the politics of belonging and forces us to acknowledge just how wide-ranging and fluid notions of belonging can be.

EPISODE 23: Charles Zelden

EPISODE 23: Charles Zelden

September 29, 2020

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Charles L. Zelden about the new expanded edition of his book, “Bush v. Gore: Exposing the Growing Crisis in American Democracy” (University Press of Kansas, 2020). Zelden is a professor in the Department of History and Political Science at Nova Southeastern University's Halmos College of Arts and Sciences, where he teaches courses in history, government and legal studies. 

In this third expanded edition Zelden offers a powerful history of voting rights and elections in America since 2000. Bush v. Gore exposes the growing crisis by detailing the numerous ways in which the unlearned and wrongly learned “lessons of 2000” have impacted American election law through the growth of voter suppression via legislation and administrative rulings, and, provides a clear warning of how unchecked partisanship arising out of Bush v. Gore threatens to undermine American democracy in general and the 2020 election in particular.

EPISODE 22: Philip Thai

EPISODE 22: Philip Thai

August 12, 2020

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Philip Thai about his book, “The War on Smuggling: Law, Illicit Markets, and State Power on the China Coast” (Columbia University Press, 2018). Thai is Assistant Professor of History at Northeastern University. He is a historian of Modern China with research and teaching interests that include legal history, economic history, and diplomatic history.

Smuggling along the Chinese coast has been a thorn in the side of many regimes. From opium and weapons concealed aboard foreign steamships in the Qing dynasty to nylon stockings and wristwatches trafficked in the People’s Republic, contests between state and smuggler have exerted a surprising but crucial influence on the political economy of modern China. Seeking to consolidate domestic authority and confront foreign challenges, states introduced tighter regulations, higher taxes, and harsher enforcement. These interventions sparked widespread defiance, triggering further coercive measures. Smuggling simultaneously threatened the state’s power while inviting repression that strengthened its authority.



Philip Thai chronicles the vicissitudes of smuggling in modern China—its practice, suppression, and significance—to demonstrate the intimate link between illicit coastal trade and the amplification of state power. China’s War on Smuggling shows that the fight against smuggling was not a simple law enforcement problem but rather an impetus to centralize authority and expand economic controls. The smuggling epidemic gave Chinese states pretext to define legal and illegal behavior, and the resulting constraints on consumption and movement remade everyday life for individuals, merchants, and communities. Drawing from varied sources such as legal cases, customs records, and popular press reports and including diverse perspectives from political leaders, frontline enforcers, organized traffickers, and petty runners, Thai uncovers how different regimes policed maritime trade and the unintended consequences their campaigns unleashed. China’s War on Smuggling traces how defiance and repression redefined state power, offering new insights into modern Chinese social, legal, and economic history.

EPISODE 21: Ariela Gross and Alejandro de la Fuente

EPISODE 21: Ariela Gross and Alejandro de la Fuente

July 29, 2020

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela Gross about their book, “Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana” (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

How did Africans become 'blacks' in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders' efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies - Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana - Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom - not slavery - established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people.

Alejandro de la Fuente is Robert Wood Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics and is Professor of African and African American Studies and of History at Harvard University. He is a historian of Latin America and the Caribbean who specializes in the study of comparative slavery and race relations.

Ariela Gross is John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law where she teaches Contracts, History of American Law, and Race and Gender in the Law. Her research and writing focuses on race and slavery in the United States.

EPISODE 20: Paul Finkelman

EPISODE 20: Paul Finkelman

July 17, 2020

In this episode, Lesa Redmond talks with Paul Finkelman about his book "Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South (Second Edition)" (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2020). Finkelman is an American Legal Historian and President of Gratz College. 

Guest host Lesa Redmond is a first year student in the Department of History at Duke University. Her research focuses on colleges and universities and their connections to slavery.

EPISODE 19: Robert Chase

EPISODE 19: Robert Chase

June 3, 2020

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Robert Chase about his book, We Are Not Slaves: State Violence, Coerced Labor, and Prisoners’ Rights in Postwar America (UNC Press, 2020).

Chase is Associate Professor of History at Stony Brook University. His areas of research and teaching include state and racial politics, African American and Latino/a history, urban history, labor history and working-class culture, critical race theory, political and sexual violence, social movements, and civil rights.

In We Are Not Slaves Chase draws from three decades of legal documents compiled by prisoners to narrate the struggle to change prison from within. Prisoners forged an alliance with the NAACP to contest the constitutionality of Texas prisons. Behind bars, a prisoner coalition of Chicano Movement and Black Power organizations publicized their deplorable conditions as “slaves of the state” and initiated a prison-made civil rights revolution and labor protest movement. These insurgents won epochal legal victories that declared conditions in many southern prisons to be cruel and unusual--but their movement was overwhelmed by the increasing militarization of the prison system and empowerment of white supremacist gangs that, together, declared war on prison organizers. Told from the vantage point of the prisoners themselves, this book weaves together untold but devastatingly important truths from the histories of labor, civil rights, and politics in the United States as it narrates the transition from prison plantations of the past to the mass incarceration of today.

This episode is part of a series featuring legal history works from UNC Press. Support for the production of this series was provided by the Versatile Humanists at Duke program.

EPISODE 18: Maddalena Marinari

EPISODE 18: Maddalena Marinari

March 18, 2020

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Maddalena Marinari about her book, Unwanted Italian and Jewish Mobilization against Restrictive Immigration Laws, 1882–1965 (UNC Press, 2020) 

Maddalena Marinari is Assistant Professor in History; Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies; and Peace Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College. She has published extensively on immigration restriction and immigrant mobilization.

In Unwanted Marinari examines how, from 1882 to 1965, Italian and Jewish reformers profoundly influenced the country’s immigration policy as they mobilized against the immigration laws that marked them as undesirable. Strategic alliances among restrictionist legislators in Congress, a climate of anti-immigrant hysteria, and a fickle executive branch often left these immigrants with few options except to negotiate and accept political compromises. As they tested the limits of citizenship and citizen activism, however, the actors at the heart of Marinari’s story shaped the terms of debate around immigration in the United States in ways we still reckon with today.

This episode is part of a series featuring legal history works from UNC Press. Support for the production of this series was provided by the Versatile Humanists at Duke program.

EPISODE 17: Sophie White

EPISODE 17: Sophie White

February 25, 2020

In this episode, Siobhan talks with Sophie White about her book, Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana. (UNC Press, 2019)

Sophie White is Associate Professor of American Studies and Concurrent Associate Professor in the Departments of Africana Studies, History, and Gender Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She is an historian of early America with an interdisciplinary focus on cultural encounters between Europeans, Africans and Native Americans, and a commitment to Atlantic and global research perspectives.

In eighteenth-century New Orleans, the legal testimony of some 150 enslaved women and men--like the testimony of free colonists--was meticulously recorded and preserved. Questioned in criminal trials as defendants, victims, and witnesses about attacks, murders, robberies, and escapes, they answered with stories about themselves, stories that rebutted the premise on which slavery was founded.

This episode is part of a series featuring legal history works from UNC Press. Support for the production of this series was provided by the Versatile Humanists at Duke program.

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