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Lauren Benton

Dean, Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Science
Nelson O. Tyrone, Jr. Chair in History
Professor of Law

Lauren Benton is an internationally recognized scholar and experienced academic leader whose award-winning work spans history, law and anthropology. Recent publications have focused on the comparative legal history of empires and the history of international law. Her latest book, coauthored with Lisa Ford, is Rage for Order: The British Empire and the History of International Law, 1800-1850 (Harvard University Press, 2016). Previous monographs include A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900, and Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900, which was awarded the J. Willard Hurst Prize and the World History Association Book Prize. Dean Benton joined Vanderbilt in 2015 from New York University, where she was dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, Silver Professor of History, and affiliate professor at the NYU School of Law. Before joining NYU in 2003, Benton held faculty appointments at Rutgers University–NJIT, the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to consulting for various organizations, Dean Benton has served on the editorial boards of leading legal history journals and on the board of directors of the American Society for Legal History. Benton’s current research focuses on regional and “international” law in the early modern world and on the formation and historical significance of regional legal regimes.

Research Interests

Atlantic world, comparative legal history of empires, history of international law


Representative Publications

  • “Empires and Protection: Making Interpolity Law in the Early Modern World,” Journal of Global History (forthcoming, 2017) (with Adam Clulow)
  • Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (Harvard University Press, 2016) (with Lisa Ford)
  • “Law for the Empire: The Common Law in America and the Problem of Legal Diversity,” 89 Chicago-Kent Law Review 937 (2014) (with Kathryn Walker)
    Full Text | WWW
  • "Constituting the Imperial Community: Rights, Common Good and Authority in Britain's Atlantic Empire, 1607-1815," in Histories of Human Rights, Pamela Slotte and Miia Halme-Tuomisaari, eds. (Cambridge University Press, 2015) (with Aaron Slater)
  • Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850 (New York University Press, 2013) (editor, with Richard Ross)
  • "The Space between Empires: Coastal and Insular Microregions in the Early Nineteenth-Century World," in The Uses of Space in Early Modern History, 1500-1850, Paul Stock, editor (Palgrave, 2015) (with Jeppe Mulich)
  • "Empires and Legal Pluralism: Jurisdiction, Sovereignty, and Political Imagination in the Early Modern World," (with Richard Ross) in Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850 (New York University Press, 2013, edited with Richard Ross)
  • "This Melancholy Labyrinth: The Trial of Arthur Hodge and the Bondaries of Imperial Law," 64 Alabama Law Review 91 (2012)
    Full Text | PDF
  • A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900 (Cambridge Universityh Press, 2010)
  • Law 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.