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Litigants and Households: African Disputes and Colonial Courts in the French Soudan, 1895-1912 (Social History of Africa Series)

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Why did Africans bring their most intimate domestic disputes to the newly created native courts in the period after 1905? And what do these disputes tell us about everyday life and social change? To answer these questions, Roberts uses all 2,062 civil disputes heard at the provincial level native courts for four districts between 1905 and 1912. He concludes that changes in social relations occurring at a time of accelerated change associated with colonial conquest and the end of slavery interacted with ...

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Overview

Why did Africans bring their most intimate domestic disputes to the newly created native courts in the period after 1905? And what do these disputes tell us about everyday life and social change? To answer these questions, Roberts uses all 2,062 civil disputes heard at the provincial level native courts for four districts between 1905 and 1912. He concludes that changes in social relations occurring at a time of accelerated change associated with colonial conquest and the end of slavery interacted with institutional changes, namely the creation of the new native courts, to produce discernible patterns of litigation. Moreover, these patterns of litigation point to "trouble spots" in African society, thus providing a lens into the most ordinary aspects of daily life.

This book is divided into two parts: following an important theoretical and methodological introduction to the use of the court records as social history, the first three chapters examine the context in which the colonial legal came into being in 1903. The second part examines the evidence generated by court records into the struggles between former slaves and former masters in the immediate aftermath of the end of slavery, the "trouble spots" of marriage and divorce, bridewealth disputes, disputes over new forms of property in a post-slave holding era, and disputes over inheritance. These chapters concentrate on cases brought by women or dealing with women.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780325002583
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 4/28/2005
  • Series: Social History of Africa Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Roberts is Professor of African History and Director of the Center for African Studies at Stanford University. He has published widely on the social and economic history of French West Africa and has edited two volumes that have appeared in the Social History of Africa series (Law and Colonialism in Africa, coedited with Kristin Mann, and Cotton, Colonialism, and Social History of Sub-Saharan Africa, coedited with Allen Issacman).
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

List of Maps

List of Charts and Tables

Introduction: "Disputes without Significance": African Social History and Colonial Courts at a Time of Social Transformation

The Foundations of the French Colonial Legal System in West Africa, 1673-1903

Custom and Legal Authority in the Native Courts

The Courts, the End of Slavery, and the Landscapes of Power

Women Seeking Divorce; Men Seeking Control

Bridewealth as Contract

Conflicts over Property

Disputing Inheritance

Conclusion: The Importance of "Disputes without Significance"

Bibliography

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