An Empire of Laws: Legal Pluralism in British Colonial Policy by Christian R Burset, Notre Dame Law School, has now been published by Yale University Press:
As legal historian Christian R. Burset argues, determining how much English law a colony received depended on what kind of colony Britain wanted to create. Policymakers thought English law could turn any territory into an anglicized, commercial colony; legal pluralism, in contrast, would ensure a colony’s economic and political subordination. Britain’s turn to legal pluralism thus reflected the victory of a new vision of empire—authoritarian, extractive, and tolerant—over more assimilationist and egalitarian alternatives. Among other implications, this helps explain American colonists’ reverence for the common law: it expressed and preserved their equal status in the empire. This book, the first empire-wide overview of law as an instrument of policy in the eighteenth-century British Empire, offers an imaginative rethinking of the relationship between tolerance and empire.