Georges Scelles Study of the Slave Trade: French Solidarism Revisited

Abstract

<it>In 1906, Georges Scelle defended his state thesis in the Faculty of Law at the University of Paris. The young scholar had taken upon himself to study the history of the transatlantic slave trade from a legal and political perspective. The result is a monumental work, in which Scelle traces the evolution of the ‘</it>asientos de negros<it>’ – that is, the agreements that the Spanish crown signed with an individual, a company or another sovereign by which the latter was granted the privilege (and often the monopoly) to supply African slaves to the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Scelle’s thesis offers us an opportunity to explore the meaning and ambivalences of a certain left sensibility in our discipline. How did a radical left international lawyer respond to slavery and human exploitation at the turn of the 20th century? In particular, how did the vocabulary of solidarity and freedom play out when analysing the commercial enterprise that epitomized the most exploitative form of globalization?</it>

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