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Phantom history, the rule of law and the colonial state : the case of German New Guinea

CollectionsANU Pacific Institute
Title: Phantom history, the rule of law and the colonial state : the case of German New Guinea
Author(s): Sack, Peter
Date published: 2001
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Division of Pacific and Asian History, The Australian National University.
Description: 
This book uses the history of German New Guinea to examine the role of law in colonial government. It argues: that it was crucial; that the 'colonial state', rather than disappearing, has become a global phenomenon ; and that the conventional narrative approach to history is incapable of giv ing a realistic account of the history of colonial rule, offering 'phantom history' instead. On the other hand this book argues that it is possible to adopt alternative approaches to colonial law, because it is historically an instrument for organising state powers which creates historical records that reveal the structures of this organisation and provide quantitative information about its operation. What makes the case of German New Guinea particularly interesting is that such a structural and quantitative approach can take us only part of the way since its colonial law had to be developed from scratch, so that it could only gradually grow into a bureaucratic form of government which lawyers like to call 'The Rule of Law'. While it is comparatively easy to describe the legal framework within which its government operated, it is impossible to deal with its operation adequately in quantitative terms, because much of the relevant information was not systematically recorded and because a large portion of the records made has not survived. There was thus no choice but to adopt a narrative approach, despite its shortcomings, but to try to avoid the pitfalls of 'phantom history' as far as possible. In short, this book is as much about the challenges of writing a realistic history of colonial rule as it is about the history of colonial law in German New Guinea.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/133557
ISBN: 909524505

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