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Part I Histories, Ch.8 Imperialism and International Legal Theory

Antony Anghie

From: The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law

Edited By: Anne Orford, Florian Hoffmann

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 13 June 2024

Customary international law — General principles of international law — Sources of international law

This chapter examines the issue of how imperialism has impinged on theorizing about international law in different historical periods, as imperialism is a distinctive experience that has generated new questions and concepts that have been and need to be further explored in order to acquire a better grasp of the operation of international law and its effects on the world. The argument here is that we are faced by a fundamental paradox: although imperialism has been crucial to the development of international law, it has not really been a central concern of the theory of international law for much of the last century. This is because of a broad tendency to view ‘colonial questions’ as pragmatic or political issues that did not implicate the great theoretical concerns of the time, or else to characterize imperialism in a manner that easily enabled its assimilation into these concerns.

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