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A conceptual history of recognition in British international legal thought


Clark, M, A conceptual history of recognition in British international legal thought, British Yearbook of International Law, 87, (1) pp. 18-97. ISSN 2044-9437 (2018) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright The Author(s) 2018. This is an author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in The British Yearbook of International Law following peer review. The version of record is available online at:

DOI: doi:10.1093/bybil/bry003


This article examines the development of the concept of recognition in the writings of British jurists. It first outlines methodologies of conceptual history as applied to international legal concepts, before examining four strands of development of the concept of recognition from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. It shows how the concept of recognition moved from examining intra-European diplomatic disagreements, to a focus on Christianity, civilisation and progress that barred non-European communities, to a late colonial-era emphasis on technicalities of government and territory, and eventually a state-centric account that normalised inferiority into difference, before emerging in the interwar period as a ‘basic concept’ of international law: intensely debated and closely tied to a range of political projects. The article concludes with reflections on why British thinking turns away from recognition in the 1950s, as the decolonising world turns to a new international law and self-determination.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:conceptual history, recognition, British international law, colonialism, imperialism
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:International and comparative law
Research Field:International criminal law
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in law and legal studies
UTAS Author:Clark, M (Mr Martin Clark)
ID Code:140561
Year Published:2018
Deposited By:Law
Deposited On:2020-08-27
Last Modified:2020-09-11
Downloads:15 View Download Statistics

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