H-Law Podcast Episode 9: Holly Brewer

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In this podcast we will be discussing Professor Holly Brewer’s article published in October 2017 in the American Historical Review, entitled "Slavery, Sovereignty and 'Inheritable Blood': Reconsidering John Locke and the Origins of American Slavery." Dr. Brewer is Burke Chair of American History and Associate Professor at the University of Maryland. She is a specialist in early American history and the early British Empire. The article is part of a larger book project that will situate the origins of American slavery in the ideas and legal practices associated with the divine rights of kings, tentatively entitled "Inheritable Blood: Slavery & Sovereignty in Early America and the British Empire.”


:58 Author background


2:22 Article summary


4:37 The sources and how the author got the most out of them


6:50 Why the narrative that equality for whites came only at the expense of inequality for blacks is a fruitful but limited frame


8:54 How the work relates to the historiography surrounding Locke and slavery


12:43 How the legitimization of the Stuart dynasty relates to justifications for slavery


14:40 How the legal concepts of dominion and lordship manifested themselves during Stuart plans for colonial development


18:24 Incentives the Stuarts had for encouraging the royal headright policy


20:49 The post-1660 laws that gradually stripped Black servants of their rights as subjects


24:58 John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government”


28:30 How Locke’s theories about slavery relate to “just war” theory


30:05 How Locke challenged court rulings that perpetuated the myth that people are things


36:03 How Locke challenged the intellectual link in feudal law between hereditary property ownership and hereditary power


38:26 Evidence Brewer found that Locke wrote “Some of the Chief Grievances of the present Constitution of Virginia, With an Essay towards the Remedies thereof”


43:46 Governor Nicholson’s decision during the William Miller case and what the case tells us about Locke


46:25 The significance of Locke always using the term “servant” or “negro servant” never “slave” in Board of Trade correspondence in the 1690s


48:23 Why Locke said that black children should be baptized


49:56 How the article influences the ability to assess and regulate capitalism and corruption in the present