1st Edition

Legal Histories of Empire Navigating Legalities

Edited By Lyndsay Campbell, Shaunnagh Dorsett Copyright 2025
    340 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This collection brings together an international group of scholars in order to provide new insights into the diversity of imperial legalities.

    Across empires, legalities were produced not just – or even – through the imperial imposition of laws and legal forms, but through local processes of negotiation and contestation. Far from the metropoles, local actors found ways to creatively navigate and subvert imperial frameworks and laws, and to create space in which to shape new legalities, responsive to local circumstance and need. Covering topics as diverse as smuggling in eighteenth century Jersey, the criminalisation of female market women in World War II-era southern Nigeria, and whiteness and race in ‘sexual perversion’ cases in twentieth century Malaya, the collection elaborates new legal histories of empire. Drawing from Britain, Australia, Canada, the USA, India, Sri Lanka, Africa and Malaysia, the collection brings together essays that examine the stories of the peoples of empires and shows how they constituted, experienced, navigated and subverted the legal complexities of living under empire.

    This book will be of interest to scholars and researchers in law and history, but also to those with relevant interests in post-colonial and cultural studies, as well as in criminology and sociology.

    1. Navigating Legalities: Legal Histories of Empires 

    Lyndsay Campbell and Shaunnagh Dorsett 

    Part 1: Legalities 

    2. Gerald of Wales, John Davies, and the Laws of the Irish in an English Colonial Perspective 

    Craig Lyons 

    3. Constituting a Colonial Crisis: Kielley v. Carson, St. John’s, 1838-43 

    Lyndsay Campbell 

    4. Recrafting Subjecthood through Exceptional Laws in the Nineteenth-Century British Empire 

    Amanda Nettelbeck 

    5. Making Empire: Writing the 1833 Ceylon Charter of Justice and Curial Reform in the British Empire 

    Shaunnagh Dorsett 

    Part 2: Negotiating Legalities 

    6. Resisting and Extending Empire: How the Acadian People Shaped British and French Imperial Rule Through the Strategic Use of Law 

    Robert Hamilton 

    7. Arbitration and Empire: The Anti-Adjudicatory State in Bengal and British America, 1763–1775 

    Christian R. Burset 

    8. Legally Interconnecting Empires in the Americas: The Circulation of ‘Foreign’ Law Books in Québec and Louisiana from the 17th to the Early 19th Century 

    Serge Dauchy 

    9. Protestant State, Catholic Subjects: Religion, Law and Caste in Early Colonial Madras 

    Aparna Balachandran 

    10. Goomany Naik: Fragments of A ‘Non-Traditional’ Legal Biography 

    Nishant Gokhale 

    Part 3: Subverting Empire: Legalities and Illegalities 

    11. Creative Friction, Legal Pluralism and the Eighteenth-Century Smuggling Economy in the Channel Islands 

    David Chan Smith 

    12. The ‘Price’ of War: The Criminalization and Punishment of Profiteers in Southern Nigeria during World War II 

    Yolanda Chinelo Osondu 

    13. Anxieties of Whiteness: Evidence, Race, and Emotions in the (Non-)Prosecution of the “Malayan ‘Sexual Perversion’ Cases,” 1938-1940 

    Jack Jin Gary Lee 

    14. Merchant Seafarers on British Ships: Lascars, Labour, Law and Empire in the Early 20th Century 

    Diane Kirkby


    Lyndsay Campbell is Professor in the Faculty of Law and Department of History, University of Calgary, Canada.

    Shaunnagh Dorsett is Distinguished Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.