Lauren Benton

Lauren Benton

Professor of History; Silver Professor; Affiliate Professor of Law

Johns Hopkins University, PhD 1987

Office Address: 

6 Washington Square North, 1st Floor



Field of Study: 

Atlantic World

Research Interests: 

Atlantic world, legal history, comparative history of empires.


Lauren Benton researches and writes about the comparative history of empires, with special emphasis on the history of law. Her publications include works on imperial sovereignty, legal pluralism in empires, maritime law, and the history of international law. Benton’s main region of focus is the Atlantic world, but she also studies the global reach of European empires and has examined case studies from South Asia, Latin America, Africa, North America, and Australia. Benton is currently working on a history of imperial law and international order in the early nineteenth century, and she is developing a new project on imperial violence and the international law of war. At NYU, Benton teaches courses on the comparative history of empires, law in empires, world history, and Atlantic history.

Selected Works:


Cover_LegalPluralismAndEmpires.gifLegal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850. Lauren Benton and Richard Ross, eds.  New York University Press (2013).

BentonSovereignty.jpgA Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900. Cambridge University Press (2010).

BentonLawColonial.jpgLaw and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900. Cambridge University Press (2002). Winner of the 2003 World History Association Book Award; and the 2003 James Willard Hurst Prize.

BentonInvisibleFactories.jpgInvisible Factories: The Informal Economy and Industrial Development in Spain. Albany: State University of New York Press (1990).

BentonInformalEcon.jpgThe Informal Economy: Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries, eds., Alejandro Portes, Manuel Castells, and Lauren Benton. Johns Hopkins University Press (1989).

Selected Articles and Chapters:

Lauren Benton and Richard Ross, "Empires and Legal Pluralism: Jurisdiction, Sovereignty, and Political Imagination in the Early Modern World," in Benton and Ross, eds., Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850. New York University Press (2013).

Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford, "Magistrates in Empire: Convicts, Slaves, and the Remaking of Legal Pluralism in the British Empire," in Benton and Ross, eds., Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850. New York University Press (2013).

"Crime and Empire," in Philippa Levin and John Marriott, eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories. Ashgate Press (2012): 393-406.

“This Melancholy Labyrinth: The Trial of Arthur Hodge and the Boundaries of Imperial Law,” Alabama Law Review (2012): 100-1222.

"Introduction: Forum on Law and Empire in Global Perspective," The American Historical Reveiw 117(4) (2012): 1092-1100.

"Una soberanía extraña: La Provincia Oriental enel mundo atlántico," 20/10: El Mundo Atlántico y la Modernidad Iberoamericana 1750-1850 1: 89-107 (2012).

"Possessing Empire: Iberian Claims and Interpolity Law," in Saliha Bellmessous, ed., Indigenous versus European Land Claims, 1500-1914, Oxford University Press (2011):19-40.

 “Abolition and Imperial Law, 1780-1820,” Journal of Commonwealth and Imperial History, Vol. 39:3, (2011): 355-374.

"Atlantic Law: Transformations of a Transoceanic Legal Regime," in Philip Morgan and Nicholas Canny, eds., Oxford Handbook on the Atlantic World, c 1450-1820, Oxford University Press (2011): 40-416.

 “Toward a New Legal History of Piracy: Maritime Legalities and the Myth of Universal Jurisdiction,” International Journal of Maritime History XXIII, No. 1 (2011): 1-15.

"Legal Problems of Empire in Gentili's Hispanica Advocatio," in Benedict Kingsbury and Benjamin Straumann, eds., The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations, Oxford University Press (2010):269-282.

Lauren Benton and Benjamin Straumann, “Acquiring Empire by Law: From Roman Doctrine to Early Modern European Practice,” Law and History Review 28:1 (2010): 1-38.

“Legal Problems of Empire in Gentili’s Hispanica Advocatio,” in Benedict Kingsbury and Benjamin Straumann, eds., The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations (Oxford University Press, 2010), 269-282.

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Updated on 09/13/2013