This issue of French Colonial History—my first as editor—takes the journal deeper into the digital age as it is the first to be produced using a new online management system that will streamline the submission, review, and production processes while also allowing authors to track the status of their manuscripts through each stage. While the journal has suffered some production delays over the past few years, the combination of this new system and a recent surge in submissions should put us back on track so that issues appear shortly before each annual meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society. I would like to encourage all society members to consider publishing their work in French Colonial History and to create user profiles by following the directions at http://msupress.org/fch.
The five essays in this issue, which are divided by region and arranged approximately in chronological order, showcase the society's bilingual and international character, with articles in both French and English by scholars based in Europe, Canada, the United States, and Asia. They also represent the breadth of the French colonial empire in both geography and time, covering the period from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries and ranging from New France to Haiti and Vietnam.
All three of the essays on New France deal with aspects of legal history. Alice Bairoch de Sainte Marie uses the issue of inheritance rights for partners of mixed race marriages in Louisiana to show that economic factors often led colonial courts to adapt official policy to local reality. Specifically, while French law stated that Native Americans who converted to Catholicism and became subjects of the Crown had the same legal rights as French men and women, fears that aboriginal widows would strip the colony of wealth by returning to their tribes of origin along with property inherited from deceased French husbands caused the courts [End Page v] in seventeenth and eighteenth century Louisiana to place de facto limits on Native American rights. Robert Englebert uses a variety of legal cases in Quebec and the Illinois Country in the aftermath of the Seven Years' War to show that former French subjects continued to use long established French legal principles to protect and maintain socioeconomic connections with their brethren across what had once been French North America. In the final essay in this section Bonnie Stepenoff explores the intersection between history and literature. After making the case that Kate Chopin used her great-great grandmother, Marianne Richelet Verdon, as the inspiration for the 1892 short story "The Maid of Saint Phillippe," Stepenoff uses the Verdon family's various legal matters to examine gender identities and women's property rights in what had been French North America during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
In the lone submission on the Caribbean, Dannelle Gutarra reexamines the origins of the 1793 French decision to abolish slavery in Saint Domingue. While most scholars argue that this decision was either accidental or part of a larger Jacobin plan, Gutarra shows that the proclamations and commentary by Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, the architect of abolition, reveal that it was neither. Instead, Sonthonax's thinking on the matter evolved gradually and was grounded equally in local realities and revolutionary rhetoric emanating from the metropole.
Phi Vân Nguyen's article makes a strong case that Catholic missionaries played a key role in exporting the Christian social doctrine of Personalism from France to Vietnam, where they helped adapt it to local norms. While the Ngô brothers, Ngô Đình Nhu and Ngô Đình Diệm, made it the centerpiece of their political philosophy and the core of the Cần Lao Party's platform, missionaries remained influential figures in the anti-Communist and social justice movements into the early 1960s. Their collective efforts, although overshadowed by the Republic of Vietnam's failure to adequately implement reforms and fend off Communism, provided an intellectual and hitherto insufficiently examined response to the Cold War.
I would like to thank my predecessor as editor, Micheline Lessard, for her service to the society. Special thanks are also due to former editor Nathalie Dessens for her advice and assistance, without...