From the State of Emergency to the Rule of Law: The Evolution of Repressive Legality in the Nineteenth Century British Empire
60 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2019 Last revised: 18 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 27, 2019
Why are contemporary laws and techniques that state authorities use to crack down on political dissent so similar across countries? This Article argues that at least part of the answer may be found by turning to colonial history. The Article has two Parts. In the first Part, the Article explores the manner in which, over the course of the nineteenth century, the British deployed various different legal and institutional approaches in response to an Irish polity that consistently refused to submit to British authority. In the second Part, the Article examines the manner in which the approaches developed in Ireland were exported to other parts of the empire, in particular to India, South Africa, and Nigeria, over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Along the way, the Article considers the big picture significance of such developments relative to the nature of the rule of law. While, over time, the deployment of increasingly legalized and formalized approaches may have played a positive role insofar as they served to soften and displace the potential for more direct violence, enabled by declarations of martial law, such developments came at the cost of the incorporation of much of the repressive approach employed in contexts of emergency rule into everyday legality. Far from conflicting with the rule of law, this development represented the form in which the expansion of the rule of law primarily occurred — serving to entrench and legitimize the repressive practices in question.
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