Legal Imperialism

Sovereignty and Extraterritoriality in Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and China

Legal Imperialism

Legal Imperialism examines the important role of nineteenth-century Western extraterritorial courts in non-Western states. These courts, created as a separate legal system for Western expatriates living in Asian and Islamic coutries, developed from the British imperial model, which was founded on ideals of legal positivism. Based on a cross-cultural comparison of the emergence, function, and abolition of these court systems in Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and China, Turan Kayaoglu elaborates a theory of extraterritoriality, comparing the nineteenth-century British example with the post–World War II American legal imperialism. He also provides an explanation for the end of imperial extraterritoriality, arguing that the Western decision to abolish their separate legal systems stemmed from changes in non-Western territories, including Meiji legal reforms, Republican Turkey’s legal transformation under Ataturk, and the Guomindang’s legal reorganization in China. Ultimately, his research provides an innovative basis for understanding the assertion of legal authority by Western powers on foreign soil and the influence of such assertion on ideas about sovereignty.


"Legal Imperialism makes an important contribution to the emerging literature that is helping to sweep away the Eurocentric bias that continues to bedevil contemporary thinking in international relations. Making skilful use of comparative analysis, Turan Kayaoğlu not only establishes a convincing explanation for the rise and fall of the extraterritorial jurisdiction established by western states in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East in the nineteenth century, but also demonstrates how this practice helped to consolidate a conception of sovereignty in Europe that continues to hold sway in the twenty-first century. A significant achievement."
Richard Little, University of Bristol

"This book makes a major contribution to the study of sovereignty and the unequal treatment of non-Western states in the European designed international order. Kayaoğlu examines in detail how the West imposed extra-territorial courts on weaker powers, and how these arrangements were then gradually rolled back. The author weaves together a compelling account which incorporates institutionalist, realist, and constructivist perspectives. This book provides significant insights into how the West dealt with Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and China. No doubt it will become required reading for anyone wishing to understand how the state system was gradually extended to the entire globe."
Hendrik Spruyt, Northwestern University

"Turan Kayaoğlu convincingly analyses the process by which international law served as the handmaiden of European imperial expansion and played a decisive role in compelling non-European states to accept Westphalian statehood. Broad in scope and methodologically rigorous, it is a major work of scholarship that utilizes the literature of international law, international relations theory, as well as archival documents. Kayaoğlu offers one of the finest examples of historically-informed scholarship in political science."
Shogo Suzuki, University of Manchester

"… Legal Imperialism is a novel text that will inspire readers to keep in mind the diverse uses of law and see anew the concept of sovereignty."
Zülâl Muslu, Comparative Legal History