The idea of globalization has helped to rehabilitate universalizing categories, such as colonialism and cosmopolitanism, criticized for their tendency to ignore the differences between local cultures and the operation of power. Drawing on the burgeoning discussion on historical globalization, and focussing on the role of African assessors, this article examines how colonial courts grappled with the tension between the aspiration toward imperial legal universalism and the ‘Othering’ of African subjects. It argues that British colonialism in Africa represented a form of globalization of English law, generating a ‘centripetal jurisprudence’ that sought to square the inequities of an engagement with local custom by holding up the values of justice, equity, and conscience. Imperial legal universalism required both the accommodation and containment of African difference. The paradox of integration and differentiation in colonial constructions of globality is that imperial power and local cultures were not always in conflict, but were sometimes complementary and mutually reinforcing.