Dissertation: Between Tribute and Treaty: Implementing the Law of Nations in South and Southeast Asia, c. 1500–1900

Between Tribute and Treaty: Implementing the Law of Nations in South and Southeast Asia, c. 1500–1900

- in englischer Sprache -

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Rechtsgeschichtliche Studien, volume 75

Hamburg , 396 pages

ISBN 978-3-8300-9493-7 (print) |ISBN 978-3-339-09493-3 (eBook)


[...] Kemme makes an excellent contribution to rethinking the global order. However, for legal historians of international law, imperial history and regional study on South and Southeast Asia, there is still open space for intercultural dialogues.

About this book deutschenglish

How did international law become a globally applied system of order? This is one of the most important questions of the history of international law. By moving the geographical spotlight from Europe to Asia light is shed on the regional norms guiding the interactions between polities in different regions of the world. Well into the period of European overseas expansion different coexisting normative orders intersected in South- and Southeast Asia. They were based on divergent world views in which authority was defined and legitimized in different ways. Islamic empires, Hindu kingdoms, the Chinese empire and European trading companies met in this multicultural space and established formal relationships.

It is increasingly accepted that the history of international law and the history of European expansion are connected in significant ways. To determine the nature of these entanglements it is necessary to move away from the intellectual history of the European law of nations and dive into the legal practicalities of European expansion. The global order arose from customary systems of exchange that European actors negotiated with non-European rulers and ruling bodies. These systems facilitated the implementation of certain European legal mechanisms in South and Southeast Asia but also drew on local norms and customs.

Within these customary systems the treaty had an important function. By analyzing the treaty making process between South- and Southeast Asian rulers with the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company and subsequently with the British and Dutch colonial governments, as well as the legal provisions of these treaties, important insights are gained about the role of international law in the subjugation of South and Southeast Asian peoples. The treaties were instrumental for the dismantlement of the traditional orders in South and Southeast Asia. From treaties of protection between independent polities they became a mechanism to deprive South and Southeast Asian rulers of their external competences and isolate them from the global stage. While sovereignty became ever more defined in the nineteenth century in Europe, sovereignty was constantly negotiated within the context of empire.

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