In their efforts to define “quasi-sovereignty” in the late nineteenth century, colonial officials referred to principles of international law but also increasingly predicted the absorption of imperial sub-polities into a single legal order. At the same time, their efforts began to shape an understanding of “imperial law” as a distinctive kind of law. This article examines colonial officials’ efforts to define quasi-sovereignty in the context of a crisis in the 1870s involving the “trial” of an Indian ruler for plotting to poison a British Resident in Baroda. The case shows that conflicts over jurisdiction, border disputes, and other tensions preoccupied colonial officials and led them to devise increasingly complex typologies of legal territory and to propose new rationales for the suspension of law. The article then traces similar trends in Basutoland in southern Africa and U.S. Indian law in the United States, showing the global circulation of ideas about quasi-sovereignty and suggesting that “imperial law” is best understood as a variant of constitutional law centered on the problems of describing the limits of law and defining new categories of legal distinction for subordinate territories and polities.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Benton: From International Law to Imperial Constitutions: The Problem of Quasi-Sovereignty, 1870-1900
Lauren Benton (New York Univ. - History) has posted From International Law to Imperial Constitutions: The Problem of Quasi-Sovereignty, 1870-1900 (Law and History Review, forthcoming). Here's the abstract: