Empire and the European Union

Signe Larsen (Oxford)

This paper seeks to remedy a fundamental flaw in the debate about European integration and EU law: the almost complete absence of a reckoning with the legacy of empire and imperialism. The paper shows that the significance of EU law can only be understood against the background of the historical transformation of the European public law order with the decline of European empires. European integration is an integral part of a new European public law order that finally replaced the public law order of the European empires in which the European states held a privileged place as the only ‘civilized’, and hence, sovereign states in the world. The post-WWII European public law order entailed a new vision for domestic public law, but also constituted intra-European relations anew, and established a new set of external relations between Europe and its former colonies.

Liberal Constitutionalism and Post-colonialism in the Global South

This paper addresses liberal constitutionalism and postcolonialism in the Global South. The proposition that liberal constitutionalism is under attack in many places, including the Global South, is more complicated the closer we look at it. What exactly is ‘liberal constitutionalism’? What is the Global South? Who attacks and for what reasons? How do place and context matter? What has postcolonialism got to do with? Building writings in this area, the paper disentangles threads and challenges assumptions.

The Fingerprints of Empire on Constitutionalism in Postcolonial West Africa.

Maame A.S. Mensa-Bonsu (LSE)

Within a decade of becoming independent, the former British colonies in West Africa all abandoned the Westminster systems of their independence constitutions in favour of the presidential system epitomised by the United States. Despite this, their parliaments seem unwilling, or, perhaps, more accurately, unable to sustain the contentious relationship with the executive required for parliament to be an effective check on presidential power. What lies at the heart of this weakness in West African Parliaments? How is it affecting these countries’ constitutionalism efforts? In this paper, I study the current and historical constitutions of the countries formerly collectively known as British West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia) and in the light of selected contemporary events, identify and assess the fingerprints of empire on the separation of powers challenges in West African constitutions.

Military Constitutionalism in Post Colonial States

Today, there is a growing interest in constitutionalism in authoritarian and hybrid regimes. Yet there is little consideration of how the organization of power in colonial constitutions shapes the configuration of authority in post-colonial hybrid constitutions. This paper studies the military as a constitutional actor in post-colonial tutelary regimes. Myanmar and Pakistan make an ideal comparative study, since both are former British colonies, where the military has assumed a tutelary role in the constitutional orders, but this role has taken different forms in the two states. In this paper, I explain the ways in which colonial constitutions and their underlying rationales, shaped the post-colonial separation and distribution of power between elected and unelected institutions and the form of the military’s tutelary role. By tracing the colonial origins of post-colonial hybrid constitutions, I seek to bring empire into the study of authoritarian and hybrid constitutionalism today.

Devolution in the Post-Imperial Constitution of the United Kingdom

This paper considers how the constitution of the British Empire affects the constitution of the United Kingdom. It addresses familiar constitutional ideas in their post-imperial context. Imperial constitutional ideas such as the distinction between settled and ceded colonies and the divisible nature of the Crown still settle important constitutional cases. Even parliamentary supremacy can be understood as the legacy of a constitution whose software could reset using the basic operating system. The general lines of the modern British devolution settlement also reflect historic imperial and colonial patterns of devolution. We see devolution differently when we address the UK, not as a highly-centralised unitary state, but as an Empire – a polity where problems of subsidiarity were ongoing and inescapable.