Jennifer Pitts
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Legal pluralism and Burke’s law of nations
in Making the British empire, 1660–1800
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This chapter revisits the famous trial of Warren Hastings, and the prosecution led by Edmund Burke. It does so because this was a fertile moment of what might be called the politics of legal pluralism. Burke understood the impeachment of Hastings as a peculiar and potent form of global legal encounter and came to characterise his dispute with Hastings as a controversy about law, and the trial as a mobilisation of British law to rein in and check the abuse of British power abroad. The trial can be used, in other words, to understand the nature and possibilities of law-governed interactions between Indians and the British, and to explore Burke’s legal pluralism, an increasingly important theme within political-science scholarship, and one with important but hitherto under-developed historical significance.

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