Colonial regimes tended to change existing legislation and judicial structures, and to introduce new legal systems. When the previous legal system was partly upheld, and especially when a number of legal systems were already in effect, a complex and plural system would emerge, often with contradictory principles and normative assumptions. As a result, the colonial government faced inevitable dilemmas regarding the priorities it should grant to the different legal systems, and the means it should use to mediate conflicts among the different perspectives. Much has been written over the last few decades concerning the interrelation of colonial expansion and the transformation of law. The colonial government emphasized the necessity of changing existing legal systems, often portrayed as backward and unsuitable for the functioning of an empire and the global relations embedded in it. New colonial legislation was intended to achieve greater efficiency and the unification of colonial rule and to advance the "civilizing mission" by negating elements of existing traditions and introducing what the colonial rulers considered to be higher levels of morality. However, such changes ran the risk of being perceived as excessive intervention in the subordinated societies, and, therefore, might undermine the legitimacy of the colonial government.
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