04 June 2020

SSRN PAPER: Mitra SHARAFI, Mixing Legal Systems in the British Empire

(image: Queen Victoria; Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This talk was given as part of a mini-plenary session on histories of empire and legal pluralism at the New Orleans meeting of the Law and Society Association in 2016. It examines mixed legal systems in the British empire between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing on fusions of Roman law or various bodies of personal law with common law. The history of the legal profession sheds light on how new kinds of mixed legal systems became feasible at particular times. Legal pluralism in the form of diverse legal systems administered by the state emerged through practicality as much as principle. As a result, the question for British colonial officials was perhaps not so much "what bodies of non-Anglo law should we retain, as a matter of principle?" as "what bodies of non-Anglo law can we retain, as a matter of personnel and practice?"
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