Imperialism pp 41-72 | Cite as

Imperialism and the Law of Nations

  • Philip D. Curtin
Part of the The Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


One of the problems implicit in international law from the sixteenth century onward was that of dealing with cultural and legal differences between nations. Even within the West, legal provisions concerning such matters as territorial waters did, and still do, differ from one country to another. But the West had at least a common tradition of Roman and canon law and centuries of continuous international relations on which to build some measure of consensus. Dealing with non-Western nations was a far different and far more difficult problem. Conflict between Western and Muslim ideas of correct international dealings was basically irreconcilable, though a modus vivendi could be worked out at times. Reconciliation of diverse views between Europe and more alien regions like East Asia was still more difficult. In the longer run of history, differences were not reconciled. The Western community of nations simply spread until all had finally come to accept the European legal framework of international relations, now embodied both in the system of international diplomacy and in the United Nations. From one point of view, this world-wide acceptance of Western norms is one of the more useful long-term results of European imperialism.


Security Council Trusteeship System Civilise State Civilise World Trusteeship Agreement 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip D. Curtin

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