ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

maandag 7 september 2020

BOOK: Inge VAN HULLE, Britain and International Law in West Africa The Practice of Empire [The History and Theory of International Law] (Oxford: OUP, 22 OCT 2020), 320 p. ISBN 9780198869863, 80 GBP


(image source: OUP)


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.

On the author:

Inge Van Hulle is Assistant Professor of Legal History at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Prior to joining Tilburg University she worked as a PhD research assistant at the department of Roman law and legal history at KU Leuven where she obtained here PhD in 2016. At Tilburg University she teaches courses such as 'History and Theory of International Law', 'History of International Law', 'History of Government and Public Institutions' and 'Early Modern History'.

(source: OUP)