The legal act of defining the ‘employee’ is about drawing lines. Those boundaries are often artificial, legally structured, and forged in an array of contests over power, ideology, and economics. They may be artificial, but they are powerful, demarcating who is in and who is out, who is us and who is them.
This well-crafted volume of ten essays is an important contribution to the growing body of research on women and law in England the pre-modern period. Each essay examines a different aspect of women’s interactions with the law (broadly defined and encompassing both secular and ecclesiastical courts) and, as suggested in the title, foregrounds their agency.
In The Brothers Karamazov, the great novelist Fedor Dostoevsky has the defence counsel Fetiukovich assert in court the perceived essential characteristic – and superiority – of Russian justice: ‘Let other nations think of retribution and the letter of the law, we will cling to the spirit and the meaning – the salvation and reformation of the lost’ (quoted on p.134).
This is a most welcome volume for a number of reasons. For a start, it is the most nuanced and comprehensive study of the practice of intercession in the earlier Middle Ages, focusing on the ninth and tenth centuries. More to the point, perhaps, it constitutes the first (and to date only) sustained engagement with the diplomas of the Ottonian and Salian rulers available in English.
Hosking’s book was widely anticipated. I had hoped that it would be a worthy successor to Adam Seligman’s The Problem of Trust.(1) However, it is largely a rambling discourse on concepts that are often barely connected to trust. There is no clear idea of what varieties of trust are. Many of Hosking’s claims are at variance with the evidence we have on trust.
Cornelia Dayton and Sharon Salinger’s Robert Love’s Warnings: Searching for Strangers in Colonial Boston describes the efforts of one man on Boston’s city payroll who was tasked with locating non-resident transients in the city, inquiring into the origins of hundreds of arriving strangers between 1765 and 1774.
Ryan Gingeras' book Heroin, Organized Crime and the Making of Modern Turkey provides an original contribution to the history of modern Turkey, particularly regarding the question of continuity and rupture from the late Ottoman period to the Republic, by taking the country's opium production, security service and criminal underworld as its focus.
Desan’s fascinating book approaches the only seemingly obvious act of ‘making money’ by examining what it actually means to ‘make money’. While Desan does acknowledge the physical act involved in this process, such as the striking of coins and the printing of bills, her primary focus is to study what gave money value and validated it as a reliable medium of egalitarian exchange.
Histories of the fate of the Ottoman Armenians have long, and understandably, been dominated by two themes. Firstly, the quest for ‘proof’ of the genocidal intent behind the treatment of the Armenians in 1915.
The funniest moment in the British Library’s wonderful Magna Carta: Law Liberty, Legacy exhibition comes towards its end, in a recent cartoon by Stephen Collins (sadly not reproduced in the excellent catalogue, but available