Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Van Hulle on Britain and international law in West Africa

In 2020, Inge Van Hulle (Tilburg University) published Britain and International Law in West Africa with Oxford University Press. From the publisher: 

Africa often remains neglected in studies that discuss the historical relationship between international law and imperialism during the nineteenth century. When it does feature, focus tends to be on the Scramble for Africa, and the treaties concluded between European powers and African polities in which sovereignty and territory were ceded. Drawing on a wide range of archival material, Inge Van Hulle brings a fresh new perspective to this traditional narrative. She reviews the use and creation of legal instruments that expanded or delineated the boundaries between British jurisdiction and African communities in West Africa, and uncovers the practicality and flexibility with which international legal discourse was employed in imperial contexts. This legal experimentation went beyond treaties of cession, and also encompassed commercial treaties, the abolition of the slave trade, extraterritoriality, and the use of force.

The book argues that, by the 1880s, the legal techniques that were fashioned in the language of international law in West Africa had largely developed their own substantive characteristics. Legal ordering was not done in reference to adjudication before Western courts or the writings of Western lawyers, but in reference to what was deemed politically expedient and practically feasible by imperial agents for the preservation of social peace, commercial interaction, and humanitarian agendas.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Introduction: Britain and International Law in West Africa

1. The Changing Legal Patterns of Anglo-African Relations (1807-1840)

2. British Legal Strategies and the Abolition of the Slave Trade

3. Extraterritorial Jurisdiction and the Dawn of the Protectorate

4. Benevolent Aggression and Exemplary Violence in West Africa

5. International Law and the Settlement of Disputes concerning West Africa on the Eve of the Scramble


Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi