Jour Fixe

Jour Fixe

  • Date: Apr 11, 2016
  • Time: 12:00 - 13:00
  • Speaker: Dr. Verena Steller
  • Historisches Seminar, FB 08 der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
  • Topic: Empire’s Law? The “rule of law” in British India , 1858-1950
  • Location: Max Planck Institute for European Legal History
  • Room: Lecture hall of the MPI
Jour Fixe

Empire’s Law? The “rule of law” in British India , 1858-1950

In order to contribute to a reflexive Empire history linking legal and constitutional history, the history of concepts and discourse theory, this study focuses on how the British colonial encounter in India changed the English law and its argumentation between the transition of power from the East India Company to the British Crown in 1858 and the enactment of the first Constitution of the independent Republic of India in 1950. Like all colonial regimes, the British Empire had brought its law with it as part of the colonial expansion. Did the Rule of law consequently also apply to India? The English law represented a combination of discursive principle and legal form: How did this ‚living law’ react to the context of British colonial rule in India? Questions about the legal validity and legitimacy of law vis-à-vis the colonial rule provoked ‚scandals of Empire’, i.e. major discursive events, about law and justice, justification and Britishness. Innumerable battles over political rights such as personal freedom, the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the safeguard of individual liberty against arbitrary state intervention were fought in two forums of justification: i.e. firstly in the arena of the courtrooms of the Raj, secondly in the public sphere of the British Empire. In „State trials“ dealing with political offenses against the state, Indian barristers tended to confront the British Rule of law with its inherent paradoxa. The project asks in which way these debates affected the transformation of the legal order in India and the legal reasoning itself. The language of the law did not only create the colonial state, it also served to question it and to articulate demands for political representation and alternative forms of governance. How did the everyday practice of social, cultural, religious, moral and legal pluralism in British India contribute to a constitutionalism in and beyond the ‚state’?

Go to Editor View