My dissertation, titled “Legal Nationalism in Sixteenth Century Parliaments,” asks how the conduct of regional administration in sixteenth-century France was influenced by the development of a distinct, nationalized body of legal practice. Because administration was regulated through regional courts, the French lawyers in official service who created collective standards of practice did so in the face of royal demands for centralization and localized claims based in precedent. Since this project took place while some regional courts fell under the control of the rebellious Catholic League, we can observe how the legal profession reached a consensus that was not determined primarily by material or political incentives.
The work of Jean Bodin (1529/30-1596) is my central case study due to its outsize influence on contemporary legal thought and because of its wide scope, covering the fields of constitutional and administrative theory, historiography, and public religion. Bodin’s approach to these topics relies on an exclusionary understanding of legitimate authority and is thus an example of the nationalist impulse that eventually prompted Bodin’s colleagues to define their collective identity in reference to the idea of a unitary state.
I hypothesize that this ideological convergence is what later enabled the creation of centralized state functions. Gaining insight into this historical conjunction of state-building with the formation of an exclusionary collective identity is relevant for the critique of Canada’s settler state because of the way that nationalist bureaucrats used a centralized state apparatus to dispossess Indigenous peoples in the name of creating a homogeneous national identity.