Dr Lisa Ford's book examining the relationship between law, settlers and indigenous people in North America and Australia in the early nineteenth century has won a NSW Premier's History Award and the American Historical Association's Littleton-Griswold Prize.
In Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788-1836, Ford, from the School of History and Philosophy, argues that a new understanding of sovereignty emerged in North America and Australia when indigenous theft and violence were redefined as crime.
"It's a common belief that settler sovereignty emerged at the moment of settlement or federation, but right up until 1820 settlers and indigenous people understood their conflicts as war, resolved disputes with diplomacy, and relied on shared notions like reciprocity and retaliation to address frontier theft and violence," she said.
The book focuses on early Georgia and the colony of New South Wales where the settlers of both regions rejected legal pluralism and moved to control or remove indigenous people in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.
Ford, who has a law degree and completed her doctorate in American History at Columbia University, said she wanted to write the book to reveal the strong parallels between American and Australian history.
"There's a wonderful body of material here in Australia about this topic but it's only ever been dealt with from a legal perspective. I really wanted to consider the historical parallels between Georgia and NSW."
The historian has also received an ARC Discovery Grant to extend her study of early nineteenth century law and society to convict transportation.
Dr Ford will discuss aspects of her book at UNSW's inaugural Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Conference later this month.
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