Law, history, colonialism

The reach of empire

Edited by Diane Kirkby and Catharine Coleborne

Law, history, colonialism

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8195-8
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: April 2010
  • BIC Category: History, Social & cultural history, Colonialism & imperialism, LAW / Legal History, HISTORY / Social History, Legal History, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


Drawing on the latest contemporary research from an internationally acclaimed group of scholars, Law, history, colonialism brings together the disciplines of law, history and post-colonial studies in a singular exploration of imperialism.

In fresh, innovative essays from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, this collection offers exciting new perspectives on the length and breadth of empire. As issues of native title, truth and reconciliation commissions, and access to land and natural resources are contested in courtrooms and legislation of former colonies, the disciplines of law and history afford new ways of seeing, hearing and creating knowledge.

Issues explored include the judicial construction of racial categories, the gendered definitions of nation-states, the historical construction of citizenship, sovereignty and land rights, the limits to legality and the charting of empire, constructions of madness among colonised peoples, reforming property rights of married women, questions of legal and historical evidence, and the rule of law. This collection will be an indispensable reference work to scholars, students and teachers.


Part One: Colonialism's legality
1. Terminal legality: Imperialism and the (de) composition of law - Peter Fitzpatrick
2. Colonization and the legal cartography of authority: English intrusions on the American mainland in the seventeenth century - Christopher Tomlins
3. Reflections on the rule of law: the Georgian colonies of New south Wales and Upper Canada 1788-1837 - John McLaren
Part TwoI: Imperialism and citizenship
4. Race definition run amuck: 'Slaying the dragon of Eskimo status' before the supreme court of Canada, 1939 - Constance Backhouse
5. The paradox of 'Ultra Democratic' governments: Indigenous peoples' civil rights in nineteenth-century New Zealand, Canada and Australia - Patricia Grimshaw, Robert Reynolds and Shurlee Swain
6. 'When There's No Safety in Numbers': Fear and the franchise in the Union of South Africa, the case of Natal - Julie Evans and David Philips
7. Making 'Mad' populations in settler colonies: the work of law and medicine in the creation of the colonial asylum - Catharine Coleborne
Part ThreeI: Justice, custom and the common law
8. Towards a "taxonomy" for the common law: Legal history and the recognition of Aboriginal customary law - Mark Walters
9. The problem of Aboriginal evidence in early colonial NSW - Nancy Wright
10. Assuming judicial control: George Brown's narrative defence of the 'New Britain Raid' - Helen Gardner
PartFour: Land, sovereignty and imperial frontiers
11. The early fate of Maori land rights in Aotearoa/New Zealand - Ann Parsonson
12. 'Because it does not make any sense': Sovereignty's power in the case of Delgamuukw v. The Queen, 1997 - John Borrows
13. Land, conveyancing reform and the problem of the married woman in colonial Australia - Hilary Golder & Diane Kirkby
14. The construction of property rights on imperial frontiers: The case of the New Zealand 'Native Land Purchase Ordinance' of 1846 - John Weaver
Part Five: Colonialism's legacy
15. International law - Recolonising the Third World?: Law and conflicts over water in the Krishna Basin - Radha D'Souza
16. Historians and native title: The question of evidence - Christine Choo
17. Race, gender, and history in three societies: Canada, New Zealand and Australia - Constance Backhouse, Ann Curthoys, and Ann Parsonson


Diane Kirkby is Reader in History at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Catharine Coleborne is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Waikato, New Zealand

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