oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Treaties or scraps of paper? A second look at the legal character of the nineteenth century British/African colonial agreements

Volume 20, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



Referring to the agreements which agents of European states made with African chiefs in the late nineteenth century, Frederick Lugard, said that they ere "produced in cartloads". Several writers have expressed the opinion that, from an international law point of view, these cartloads of "treaties" were just scraps of paper which neither imposed legal obligations nor conferred any rights. It is said that at best they were moral rights and duties which could be ignored at the whim of the European states. In this paper the author examines some of these arguments in relation to the agreements which the British made with African chiefs in the late nineteenth century and endeavour to establish the legal significance of these agreements in international law and in British municipal law.

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