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A conceptual history of recognition in British international legal thought

Clark, M ORCID: 0000-0001-6197-0711 2018 , 'A conceptual history of recognition in British international legal thought' , British Yearbook of International Law, vol. 87, no. 1 , 18–97 , doi:

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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 Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Clark, M
Keywords: conceptual history, recognition, British international law, colonialism, imperialism
Journal or Publication Title: British Yearbook of International Law
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 2044-9437
DOI / ID Number:
Copyright Information:

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:

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