The Uses of Creole Identity in 18th-Century French Transatlantic Litigation
This paper focuses in particular on the idea of Creolité, defined in this context as birth within the colonies. It examines a series of disputes over marital separation that pitted French born husbands against their Creole wives. These cases reveal that while such husbands often displayed contempt for their wives’ colonial origins, those same origins often provided the wives with more effective networks of support from local kin. More broadly, the paper argues that while Creole identity was an important ideological construct for colonial planters and jurists, it was also a concept that permeated colonial disputes over property, whether litigants invoked it to garner greater sympathy from metropolitan magistrates on the Conseil Privé or mobilized it to gain local support in the colonies at the origin of the dispute. At the same time, the records of the Conseil Privé reveal more broadly that the creole-metropolitan distinction was not always clear in practice.
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