Transnational legal practices in the British Empire and imperial legal circuits
The movement of people and law across imperial frontiers

Research Project

The mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century was a formative period for the creation, reformation and extension of law across the British Empire. Bilateral treaties, metropolitan Acts and local regulations attempted to stretch British jurisdiction across the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Whether to protect important economic zones, to limit the reach of other imperial powers or to catch fugitives, British imperial regimes attempted to demarcate the extent of their jurisdictions and clarify the nature of imperial legal power. This project focuses upon the legal practices of extradition and deportation in two broad regions of the world: Asia and the Caribbean. The project intends to draw upon case studies to understand how individuals transgressing frontiers shaped British imperial jurisdiction. It looks at legislation, imperial officials and ordinary individuals such as s criminal and political fugitives. The project draws upon a variety of cases to illuminate how various people, such as migrants or fugitives, challenged imperial concepts of nationality and security.

An important part of this project is the actors involved in this process of creating transnational legal practices. Imperial legal officials played a key role in facilitating the movement of law across borders. They were likewise transnational, moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction taking legal ideas with them. They were important actors who campaigned for, or implemented British legal rights and claims, defining the contours of British imperial power. I am particularly interested in consuls and judges in the semi-colonial parts of Britain’s empire and how these actors at imperial fringes.

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