Jennifer J. Davis - Colonial Reckoning: The Hidden History of the Census in France

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In this talk, Jennifer J. Davis, Associate Professor of History at The University of Oklahoma and coeditor of the Journal of Women’s History, will explore the roots of the modern census in France and the United States in a common document: a count of residents in colonial New France (Canada) in the year 1666. The practices that developed to track and tax the inhabitants in France’s American colonies contributed to durable categories of political inclusion and social discrimination. Davis will trace how religious categories informed racial categories in those records and examine long-term political resistance to enumeration and categorization of populations. She also will consider how race and religion factored in the most recent census data in the US (2020) and in France (2024).

Laurie Ross, Professor and Director of the Department of Sustainability and Social Justice at Clark University, will provide commentary.

This event continues the Roots of Everything, a lecture series sponsored by Early Modernists Unite (EMU)—a faculty collaborative bringing together scholars of medieval and early modern Europe and America—in conjunction with the Higgins School of Humanities. The series highlights various aspects of modern existence originating in the early modern world by connecting past and present knowledge.

With thanks to the Department of History at Clark University for its generous support.

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