The methodology used in A Legacy of Exploitation is a version of “dialectical materialism”. It is a methodology (rather than a method) in that it is a theoretically-informed, far-reaching approach that uses several techniques to analyze a range of sources.

In its practical application, and in the simplest terms possible, this methodology entails the study of the relation between the abstract (such as theories, concepts, or ideas) and the concrete (such as material reality or actual events). This involves moving back and forth between theory and event.

Readers can see this in action throughout the book, for example: when accounting for the relation between British legal principles and the legal realities of the Red River Colony; or when making sense of the guiding values of company officers and their actions in the course of the commercial trade.

The aim: identify tensions and nurture complexity, instead of flattening history in a way that leads to tidy causal explanations, or in a way that distorts history to prove a theory right.

The introduction for the book provides a sketch of the methodology, focusing on its essential components. Because I excavate the philosophical principles and political implications of the methodology in other, theory-intensive publications, A Legacy of Exploitation book allows me to explain and adapt the methodology by putting it into practice.

From the outset, readers will note that I do not simply apply the methodology — I adopt a modified approach that reflects the realities of settler colonialism. In that sense, dialectical materialism as a methodology is always subject to its own logic of inquiry.

Interested in the essays that inform my methodology? Please see the bibliographical details below:

Brophy, Susan Dianne. “The Explanatory Value of the Theory of Uneven and Combined Development.” Historical Materialist Blog, 2018.

Brophy, Susan Dianne. “Freedom, Law, and the Colonial Project.” Law and Critique 24, no. 1 (2013): 39–61. 

Brophy, Susan Dianne. “An Uneven and Combined Development Theory of Law: Initiation.” Law and Critique 28, no. 2 (2017): 167–91.