Imperialism pp 284-337 | Cite as

The Right to Rule

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


Beginning with the Spanish jurists of the sixteenth century, European commentators on imperialism, if not the conquerors themselves, have been much concerned with the morality of their actions. In the background, the Judeo-Christian religious tradition and the Roman legal tradition were both important in making states wish to see their actions as moral and licit. Legality or claims to legality were also important, if a European state wished to have its overseas claims recognized and respected by other states. But the wish to appear moral was more than this. International law, after all, recognized the “right of conquest” as an adequate claim to sovereignty over territory. At bottom, states needed to assert their imperial rule as a matter of right simply because the men who ran them needed to feel that they were acting morally.


British Rule European Power Native Policy True Empire Imperial Government 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1971

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  • Philip D. Curtin

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