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The Transatlantic Reach of Thomas Erskine and the Law in the Age of Revolutions

In what ways did the United States remain bound to Great Britain in the decades after American Independence? As it turns out, the law and legal ideas served as a connection between Americans and their former British brethren. In today's episode we talk to Dr. Nicola Phillips of Royal Hollway, University of London, about the life and career of Thomas Erskine. The Scottish-born Erskine was a member of an elite family whose ranks included Henry, Lord Advocate of Scotland, and David, 11th Earl of Buchan and correspondent of George Washington. Thomas, who practiced law in England, championed ideas on freedom of the press and trial by jury that resonated with Americans as they remade their laws to suit the new republic. 

This episode is part one of a four-part miniseries on the history of early American law featuring Drs. Nicola Phillips, Kate Brown, Lindsay Chervinsky, and Jessica Lowe.   

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About Our Guest:

Nicola Phillips, Ph.D., is Lecturer in History at Royal Hollway, University of London where she also co-directs The Bedford Centre for the History of Women and Gender. She is an expert in Gender History c. 1660-1830 and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Her first book examined the legal, cultural, social and economic position of Women in Business, 1700-1850 (Boydell Press, 2006)Her second book, The Profligate Son; Or, a True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice and Financial Ruin in Regency England (OUP, Oxford & Basic Books, New York 2013) was listed as one of the top ten books of the year by The Washington Post. Nicola is a former Library of Congress Georgian Papers Programme Fellow. 

About Our Host:

Jim Ambuske leads the digital history initiatives at the Washington Library. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 2016 with a focus on Scotland and America in an Age of War and Revolution. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  Ambuske is currently at work on a book entitled Emigration and Empire: America and Scotland in the Revolutionary Era, as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.