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Between Litigation and Arbitration: Administering Legal Pluralism in Eighteenth-Century Bombay

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2018
Issue number3
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)490-515
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article uses the records of the Bombay Mayor’s Court (1728–1798) to explore the ways in which an ostensibly English court of law attempted to administer law in a way that was acceptable to a cosmopolitan cast of litigants. I show how, due to the Court’s popularity with Indian litigants, and the difficulties of its hybrid jurisprudence, the Court eventually moved to a model of formalised arbitration. In this arrangement, local Indian elites exercised considerable autonomy, while British judges gained an illicit commission. As such, the evidence from the Mayor’s Court points to a novel iteration of legal pluralism in which ill-defined legal regimes came to blur and blend with each other in a single forum. I argue that this forces us to reconceptualise solely jurisdictional definitions of legal pluralism, which must be complimented with the study of a court’s ‘jurispractice’.