Law’s Empire: Legal Cultures in the British Colonial World


This module explores the ways in which law and legal regimes worked to create, regulate, challenge and change British colonial societies.  Adopting a thematic and comparative approach, it extends chronologically from the eighteenth through the twentieth century.  Each seminar is designed to introduce a specific aspect of legal regulation and to examine within a comparative framework the ways in which that phenomenon shaped life across a range of British colonies, using both primary and secondary readings.  The first five weeks of the module focus on aspects of law that relate to crimes against property and the person and to regimes of coerced labour; the second half focuses on social and cultural aspects of colonial law, particularly the perceived violation of British behavioural norms.  Geographically, the course explores legal developments in colonial contexts that stretched from Canada and the Caribbean to sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and the Indian Ocean world.

Module type: Advanced Seminar

Level: 6

Credits: 15

Module code: HIST0272 (HIST7352A/B)

Timetable: Running in both term 1 and term 2

Assessment method: 2 X 2,500-word essays