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Aboriginal Societies and the Common LawA History of Sovereignty, Status, and Self-Determination$
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P.G. McHugh

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198252481

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198252481.001.0001

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The Juridical Status of Non-Christian Polities (to the End of the Eighteenth Century)

The Juridical Status of Non-Christian Polities (to the End of the Eighteenth Century)

(p.61) 2 The Juridical Status of Non-Christian Polities (to the End of the Eighteenth Century)
Aboriginal Societies and the Common Law


Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the manner in which the Crown established political authority in territory inhabited by non-Christian people in the 17th and 18th centuries. In that time, the main theatres of imperial activity were the East Indies and North America. The notion of sovereignty then evident in British practice remained a substantially feudal one, conceiving Crown imperium (right of governance) in a jurisdictional sense. In this early period, treaties and quasi-diplomatic engagement with non-Christian polities were not regarded as problematic. These relations established protocols and structures for the management of relations between non-Christian polity and the British. They were used regularly and frequently as the foundation for British relations with the indigenous polities of both America and the Asian subcontinent, especially once the nature of British imperialism changed after the military victories of the late 1750s. By the early 19th century British imperial practice began forming a new, more deliberative view of sovereignty and relations with tribal societies.

Keywords:   British imperialism, political authority, sovereignty, non-Christian policy

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