Arianne Sedef Urus, Barra Postdoctoral Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, is an environmental and legal historian of the eighteenth-century Atlantic World. Her current book project, provisionally titled “Common Shores: A Political Ecology of the Eighteenth-Century Newfoundland Cod Fisheries” rethinks prevailing understandings of the political economy of early modern European empires in the Atlantic World. It does so by using the tools of legal history and political ecology to analyze the most important site of eighteenth-century Franco-British rivalry: the Newfoundland cod fisheries. The manuscript examines questions of property and resource access rights on a number of levels, from the fishermen who fought over who could fish where to the Indigenous Beothuk, Inuk, and Mi’kmaw peoples whose access to resources was disrupted by the expansion of European fisheries and to the European diplomats who worked to avoid conflict and simultaneously achieve imperial strategic aims. It argues that the regime of joint commercial exploitation at work in Newfoundland reveals an under-theorized political economic dimension of early modern European empire worldwide that prioritized the importance of resource access, the projection of naval power, and the flow of capital while deemphasizing the paramountcy of territorial possession and claims of sovereignty.
Urus was previously a lecturer on History and Literature at Harvard, and she will be an Assistant Professor of Early American History at Cambridge beginning in the fall 2023, where she will be a fellow at Christ’s College.
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