This article examines the development of the concept of recognition in the writings of British jurists. It first outlines methodologies of conceptual history as applied to international legal concepts, before examining four strands of development of the concept of recognition from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. It shows how the concept of recognition moved from examining intra-European diplomatic disagreements, to a focus on Christianity, civilisation and progress that barred non-European communities, to a late colonial-era emphasis on technicalities of government and territory, and eventually a state-centric account that normalised inferiority into difference, before emerging in the interwar period as a ‘basic concept’ of international law: intensely debated and closely tied to a range of political projects. The article concludes with reflections on why British thinking turns away from recognition in the 1950s, as the decolonising world turns to a new international law and self-determination.
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(source: International Law Reporter)