09 April 2018

BOOK: Dana Y. RABIN, Britain and Its Internal Others, 1750-1800 : Under Rule of Law (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017), ISBN 9781526120403, £75.00

Manchester University Press recently published a book dealing with several landmark cases in 18th century British Imperial legal history concerning the presence of “outsiders” in London.


The rule of law, an ideology of equality and universality that justified Britain's eighteenth-century imperial claims, was the product not of abstract principles but imperial contact. As the Empire expanded, encompassing greater religious, ethnic and racial diversity, the law paradoxically contained and maintained these very differences. 

This book revisits six notorious incidents that occasioned vigorous debate in London's courtrooms, streets and presses: the Jewish Naturalization Act and the Elizabeth Canning case (1753-54); the Somerset Case (1771-72); the Gordon Riots (1780); the mutinies of 1797; and Union with Ireland (1800). Each of these cases adjudicated the presence of outsiders in London - from Jews and Gypsies to Africans and Catholics. The demands of these internal others to equality before the law drew them into the legal system, challenging longstanding notions of English identity and exposing contradictions in the rule of law.


Dana Y. Rabin is Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Introduction: Empire and law, 'Firmly united by the circle of the British diadem'
1 Internal others: Jews, Gypsies, and Jacobites
2 'In a country of liberty?': slavery, villeinage and the making of whiteness in the Somerset case (1772)
3 Imperial disruptions: City, nation, and empire in the Gordon Riots
4 'This fleet is not yet republican': Conceptions of law in the mutinies of 1797
5 Wedding and Bedding: making the Union with Ireland, 1800
Select bibliography

More information on the publisher’s website

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