South Asian Legal History

Posted: 11 Nov 2015

See all articles by Mitra Sharafi

Mitra Sharafi

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: November 2015


Since the late 1990s, there has been an explosion of scholarship on South Asian legal history. This article situates the new literature within the longer tradition of postcolonial South Asian legal studies, focusing on work written by lawyers and historians. The first wave of South Asian legal studies emerged in what historians would call the long 1960s from a group of American lawyers and social scientists working on the legal profession and the experience of dispute resolution in India. The second wave, which has concentrated on the themes of gender and religion in British India, has been shaped by different influences, namely developments in the Indian women's movement and in Indian legal education during the 1980s and 1990s. The survey considers whether the new scholarship is overly focused on elites, the state, the colonial period, and English-language sources. It also identifies regional crosscutting themes that have generated research on South Asia beyond India, particularly constitutionalism, states of emergency, and the legal profession; Buddhist legal studies; gender; and rule-of-law development efforts.

Suggested Citation

Sharafi, Mitra J., South Asian Legal History (November 2015). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 11, pp. 309-336, 2015. Available at SSRN: or

Mitra J. Sharafi (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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