Only the Clothes on Her Back: Textiles, Law, and Governance in the Nineteenth-Century United States
Fall 2017 Legal History Workshop
- Laura Edwards
Peabody Family Professor of History
in Trinity College of Arts and SciencesDuke University
Only the Clothes on Her Back: Textiles, Commerce, and Governance in the Nineteenth-Century United States shifts the perspective from the property that a small minority of Americans owned to the property that the vast majority of Americans actually possessed, namely textiles. At the time, textiles had powerful legal qualities that extended to the people who possessed them, even those without property rights, which allowed subordinated groups to engage in trade, use the legal system, and participate in governance—as long as they were making and trading textiles. These largely forgotten dynamics not only recast our understanding of the economy, law, and governance in this formative period of U.S. history, but also provide insight into the roots and persistence of inequality.
Note: This is a discussion based workshop of work-in-progress with the expectation that those attending have read the workshop materials. Please contact Jacquelyn E. Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the materials.