zoë laidlaw on law, settlers and historiography


Zoë Laidlaw, ‘Breaking Britannia’s Bounds? Law, settlers and space in Britain’s Imperial Historiography’, The Historical Journal 55, 3 (2012).

Historians of the British empire recast their understanding of relations between the metropole and its peripheries in the late twentieth century, notably through the work of the ‘British world’ network and the ‘new imperial historians’. The former emphasized the material, emotional, and financial links between British colonizers across the imperial diaspora; the latter focused on the empire’s impact on Britain, particularly in terms of ‘everyday’ experience. This article critically reviews recent interventions, which extend and challenge these approaches by seeking new ways to juxtapose the macro with the micro, and balance the exceptional with the quotidian; by adopting a more transnational (or global) approach to colonialism; and by rethinking the categories of ‘settler’ and ‘colonizer’. Collectively, these works question the traditional frameworks within which both colonialism and the British empire have been understood. In conclusion, the article considers their impact on the vibrant field of Britain’s colonial legal history.

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