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Imperial Incarceration
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Book description

For nineteenth-century Britons, the rule of law stood at the heart of their constitutional culture, and guaranteed the right not to be imprisoned without trial. At the same time, in an expanding empire, the authorities made frequent resort to detention without trial to remove political leaders who stood in the way of imperial expansion. Such conduct raised difficult questions about Britain's commitment to the rule of law. Was it satisfied if the sovereign validated acts of naked power by legislative forms, or could imperial subjects claim the protection of Magna Carta and the common law tradition? In this pathbreaking book, Michael Lobban explores how these matters were debated from the liberal Cape, to the jurisdictional borderlands of West Africa, to the occupied territory of Egypt, and shows how and when the demands of power undermined the rule of law. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


‘Michael Lobban has produced an extraordinary work of forensic history-reconstructing a wide range of legal practices spanning the breadth of English dominion throughout Africa over two centuries. His book stands as a ‘truth commission’ for past wrongs and an essential precursor to any possible reconciliation.’

Richard Abel - author of Law’s Wars and Law’s Trials

‘Original and meticulously researched, Lobban’s book places the legal politics of detention at the heart of histories of rebellion, protectorates, and martial law. A valuable addition to the legal history of Africa and the British Empire.’

Lauren Benton - Barton M. Biggs Professor of History and Professor of Law, Yale University

‘Michael Lobban is the leading historian of English legal thought. Here he brings his formidable talents to bear on law’s role in facilitating and regulating detention without trial in Britain's African colonies. This is at once an important contribution to history, to legal theory, and to our understanding of empire.’

David Dyzenhaus - University Professor of Law and Philosophy, Toronto

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Full book PDF
  • Imperial Incarceration
    pp i-i
  • Series page - Series page
    pp ii-iv
  • Imperial Incarceration - Title page
    pp v-v
  • Detention without Trial in the Making of British Colonial Africa
  • Copyright page
    pp vi-vi
  • Contents
    pp vii-vii
  • Maps
    pp viii-viii
  • Acknowledgements
    pp ix-x
  • Abbreviations of Archival Sources
    pp xi-xii
  • 1 - Introduction
    pp 1-37
  • 2 - Martial Law and the Rule of Law in the Eastern Cape, 1830–1880
    pp 38-79
  • 3 - Zulu Political Prisoners, 1872–1897
    pp 80-123
  • 4 - Egypt and Sudan, 1882–1887
    pp 124-158
  • 5 - Detention without Trial in Sierra Leoneand the Gold Coast, 1865–1890
    pp 159-197
  • 6 - Removing Rulers in the Niger Delta, 1887–1897
    pp 198-237
  • 7 - Consolidating Colonial Rule: Detentions in the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone, 1896–1901
    pp 238-278
  • 9 - Martial Law in the Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902
    pp 323-381
  • 10 - Martial Law, the Privy Council and the Zulu Rebellion of 1906
    pp 382-418
  • 11 - Conclusion
    pp 419-439
  • Index
    pp 440-450


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