Remaking the King's Peace in the Age of Revolutions

When and Where

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
CG 265
Canadiana Gallery
14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9


Lisa Ford


This ls a free lecture, but registration is required

Please note: An informal meeting with Professor Ford will follow the lecture on November 15 from 2:30-4:00 PM at Sidney Smith Hall (Rm 3041). Any interested graduate student and faculty must RSVP by email to


We have long known that the British Empire transformed in the aftermath of the American Revolution. While Americans struggled to build a policy protective of some men’s liberties, the British Empire embraced counter-revolution. Governors – mostly installed in makeshift regimes in wartime – deployed new powers over new subjects in defence of what seemed to them to be an extremely fragile colonial peace. In the process, even as abolitionists clamoured for the end of the slave trade, and then, of slavery, colonial British subjecthood was remade.

That is the big story. But the history of empire unfolded in the messy interface of constitutional change with small stories of colonial peacekeeping. Here I suggest that very local debates about how to keep the peace across the empire in the Age of Revolutions reveal the contested but shifting parameters of subjecthood. Time and again, governors, judges and colonial subjects argued about what was owed and by whom in the imperial social contract. The answers to these questions had always been skewed by race and status, but, in the era of king-killers, both the answers, and indeed, the parameters of debate, were profoundly and permanently reoriented away from privileges and towards order. Here I will focus (with some trepidation) on the transformative role of Quebec and Indian country in reshaping conversations about subjecthood in the lead up to the American Revolution.

About Professor Lisa Ford

A graduate of Columbia University in New York, Professor Ford is a legal historian whose work centres on ideas and practices of order in the post-1763 British Empire and the early national United States. She is the author of three monographs: the multiple prize-winning Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788-1836 (Harvard UP, 2010); Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (Harvard UP, 2016), co-authored with Professor Lauren Benton; and The King's Peace: Law and Order in the British Empire (Harvard UP, 2021). She is currently working on two projects: a collaborative study of British Imperial Commissions of Inquiry, from 1819-1840 and a pan-imperial study of declarations of martial law, 1700-1900.

This event is co-sponsored by the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and the Department of History.

A light lunch will be served at 12:00pm in the Centre Lounge, 2nd floor of the Canadiana Gallery. 

Please note that the location does not have a working elevator. If you are a person with a disability and require accommodation, please contact us at and we will do our best to make appropriate arrangements.


Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, Department of History


14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9