Norms beyond Empire: Law-making and Local Normativities in Iberian Asia, 1500-1800

Publication of the third volume in the series ‘Max Planck Studies in Global Legal History of the Iberian Worlds’

17. Dezember 2021

The third volume published in the series Max Planck Studies in Global Legal History of the Iberian Worlds (MPIW) focuses on the Asian areas of influence of the Spanish and Portuguese empires to understand the vast process of normative change that unfolded as a consequence of early European imperialism. It seeks to rethink the relationship between law and empire by emphasising the role of local normative production. While European imperialism is often viewed as being able to shape colonial law and government to its image, this volume argues that early modern empires could never monolithically control how these processes unfolded.

In the introductory chapter, the volume’s editor, Manuel Bastias Saavedra, proposes replacing the narrative of law and empire focusing on European agency with a decentered perspective that places a multiplicity of normative arrangements at the center of observation. The chapter revisits the historiographical debates in the fields of the history of empires and legal history in order to move research beyond a narrow concept of law towards the idea of normativity, and gives non-European and non-Christian actors a greater role in the production of local normativities.

In the following chapters, five female und four male experts from Germany, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, China, Brazil and the Philippines provide case studies that help restate the relationship between law and empire. They explore normative production in China, the Estado da Índia, Japan and the Philippines, integrating a variety of research areas ranging from the Christian mission and Church history to empire building and the influence of Western science.

The legal-historical topics discussed in the volume include the production of compilations of local customs and their role in both creating and shaping imperial rule, the adjustment or creation of rules and procedures to conform to local norms and societies, the ways in which local conditions reshaped the practice of Catholic sacraments, and the articulation of norms within culturally diverse forms of knowledge and representations of time. Finally, the chapters also illustrate the interaction between local norms and the circulation of normative knowledge, which not only involved connections between Asia and the Iberian Peninsula and Rome but also reflected intensive exchanges within Asia – between, for example, Goa, Macau, Manila and Malacca – and between Asia and America.

The volume is now available in print and online in Open Access.

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