Responsible Researcher

Dr. Emily Whewell
Emily Whewell

Phone: +49 (69) 789 78 - 144
Fax: +49 (69) 789 78 - 169

Research Project | Department I

British Intra-Imperial Regulation and the „Problem“ of Fugitives

Extradition Practices in Hong Kong, Trinidad, Guiana and Gibraltar during the late Nineteenth Century

The mid to late nineteenth century was a formative period for the creation, reformation and extension of British Empire extradition laws and regulations across the globe. Bilateral treaties and local regulations attempted to govern extradition practices between Britain and its various overseas jurisdictions with other empires and states in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific.  Likewise, British intra-empire regulation of extradition and deportation between British jurisdictions themselves became significant as British subjects moved between them in greater numbers. The Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881, attempted to outline and regulate practices of extradition and deportation of fugitive British subjects within the Empire. The proliferation of extradition laws in this period suggests that international cooperation and regulation of practices against transnational crime was vital for transnational security at the height of the British Empire. International fugitives also raised important issues concerning civil liberties, nationality, diplomatic relations, and the incorporation of the developing norms and practices in international law.

The project seeks to understand extradition practices comparing three case studies in the British Empire: Hong Kong, Trinidad and Gibraltar. The cases are from three different regions of the globe and demonstrate interaction with different neighboring British jurisdictions and other empires: Hong Kong with the Chinese Empire, Trinidad with French Guiana, and Gibraltar with Spain. The project seeks to understand the implementation of the Fugitive Offenders Act in the three cases, as well as practices of extradition between neighbouring empires. It asks: what were difficulties of implementing bilaterial treaties and the Fugitive Offenders Act? What were the sources of contestation? How were metropolitan ideas as enshrined in law shaped by local contexts and negotiations and why? Can we draw any commonalities in the development of extradition practices? The project intends to draw upon case studies to understand such practices. As fugitives involved a wide range of people, from escaped convicts, pirates, army and navy deserters, and political suspects to those suspected of more ‘ordinary’ crimes, the project intends to draw upon a variety of cases to illuminate how various crimes and people gave rise to different concerns of nationality and security.

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