Showing posts from May, 2017

A Breach of Promise and a Matter of Sovereign Immunity: Mighell v The Sultan of Johor

[This unpublished jeu d'esprit concerns the famous case of Mighell v Sultan of Johore ,  Law Reports  [1894] 1 Q B 149] In the 1880s Sultan Sir Abu Bakar ibni Daing Ibrahim , the Ruler of Johor, a State on the Malay Peninsula (he reigned from 1862 to 1895), was the very model of a modern Asiatic prince. Not only was he tall, distinguished and handsome, but he was the progressive Ruler of a prosperous State that had good relations with the British Empire and enjoyed its protection. He was known as a good Muslim (he had recently had himself re-styled ‘Sultan’ of Johor instead of ‘Maharaja’), well educated with fluent English, a moderniser, and a man of cosmopolitan tastes. He was well travelled, as much at home chatting with Chinese contractors as he was accompanying the future King George V by car to the Singapore races. Queen Victoria herself became his life-long friend. He was destined to make many improvements to the law and administration of his state, bequeathing t

How to write an abstract

[This short piece has been hit or shared hundreds of times on facebook, on the ASLI website, and on the Onati Community blog. I am gratified that it seems to have filled a seriously large hole in the academic-how-to literature!] Every year I read hundreds of abstracts for conference slots, fellowship or scholarship applications, journal submissions, to introduce published articles, and for many other purposes. I notice that the concept and preparation of an abstract seems to be a very culturally-specific exercise, probably determined by expectations within a particular scholarly community – but they may not serve the purpose well when applied internationally. Accordingly, here is some guidance as to how to do a good abstract that will inform the reader and attract the attention of decision-makers. Q: What is an abstract for? An abstract is a way of indicating what your paper is about and should be written in a way that enables the reader almost instantaneously to judge whet

The Limits of Law in Colonial Settings: A Tsinoy Lesson from 17th Century Manila

In   September 1686 Charles II, King of Spain, made a Royal Decree providing that all Chinese should be expelled from Manila. The Chinese had been causing grief to the colonial government there, and it had been said by the government that there was a danger of a Chinese attack on Manila itself. The Chinese in Manila were a potential danger and had to be shipped back immediately whence they came. There were no ifs and no buts, for the King had spoken. Except one. Given that the stated mission of the Spanish Empire was to convert its subjects to the Catholic religion, those Chinese who had converted would of course be allowed to stay. It was perhaps predictable that such a drastic decree would encounter difficulty, but colonial powers were wont to leave the problems of implementation to its far-flung representatives who were paid well for solving such difficulties. The first of these was that communications being very uncertain in those days it took the decree no less than two y

"Anna and the King" and Law in Asia

Anna and the King (20th Century Fox, 1999) portrays the well-known story of how King Mongkut of Siam (Rama IV) engaged a feisty English governess for his children and the inter-cultural problems between them that her employment lead to. The movie contains a story-within-a-story concerning Tuptim, a young woman belonging to the King's harem, who elopes with her young lover Balat, a priest. She is discovered disguised as a male novice in Balat's monastery and is brought before the court in chains to be tried and punished. Anna Leonowens looks on as Tuptim and Balat, who have clearly been tortured, are accused of treason, a crime carrying the penalty of death. Anna tries to intervene as Tuptim's pleas for individual freedom in the matter of love fall on deaf ears and lead only to a brutal caning. Anna then goes directly to the King to plead for mercy in Tuptim's case. The King argues angrily that it is none of her concern; that Anna has now made it impossible for him to

Cricket v Baseball, England v USA …

Cricket v Baseball, England v USA … By Andrew Harding One of the world’s great puzzles is why the Americans abandoned the great game of cricket to play the inferior game of baseball. Imagine also how it might have been if cricket had spread from the US to Japan and Mexico in baseball’s stead? Writing about the tour of the ‘Gentlemen of Philadelphia’ (the ‘Phillies’) to England in 1908 I realised that if England and the Yankees themselves had taken American cricket seriously, the US would have without doubt become a power in cricket, excelling probably South Africa and New Zealand at least and maybe even challenging England, Australia and India. They would have had the benefit of large diasporae – English, Indian, Pakistani, West Indian, Australian, South African – and the resources to produce really good teams as they once did in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. My verdict on the Phillies was this: “Overall in terms of first class recognized games, the Phillies

The Empire Talks Back: How English Dominated but was also Dominated by its Imperial Globalisms

The Empire Talks Back: How English Dominated but was also Dominated by its Imperial Globalisms By Andrew Harding People often say that these days English is a global language. This is probably true in that it has become a second language, spoken in a broad range of colourful accents, for many all across the world. ‘Singlish’ and ‘Manglish’ are good examples. What is not so often noticed, however, that in its career across the world, English has acquired a richness of vocabulary that is in no way due to its European and North Atlantic origins. (I say North Atlantic because I am constantly surprised when my dictionary of etymology indicates words having Old Icelandic or similar Nordic origins.) It is fascinating to explore this rich etymology, and you can browse through it very easily online at . But my most valued book, purchased one grey afternoon in a Greenwich bookshop for one pound, is my Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary . In 1021 pages it

English Language and English Law

ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND ENGLISH LAW By Andrew Harding I doubt whether anybody penning his or her ‘last will and testament’ ever considered why he or she was not simply making a will. It is probably attributed to long-standing usage, and therefore any innovation such as (horror!) omitting the ‘and testament’ might create some ambiguity, or, even worse, an incorrigible legal defect resulting in a family feud lasting generations. Lawyers probably encouraged this kind of thinking so that ordinary people (that is, their paying clients) understood that the lawyer was a real professional and his ways might be questioned only at considerable personal risk. In fact the explanation is quite mundane and relatively sensible. ‘Will’ is Anglo-Saxon or Old English for the same thing as the Norman-French-derived ‘testament’. In both cases the word simply means a legal document disposing of one’s property on death. Legal drafters were sensitive to possibly different nuances of these two words. Af

The Class Structure of English Vocabulary and How to Deal With It

THE CLASS STRUCTURE OF ENGLISH VOCABULARY AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IT By Andrew Harding It is well known that what we call the English language is in essence an amalgam of two languages or kinds of language, and its vocabulary derives from two broad origins: Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and Nordic roots, on the one hand; and Latin via Norman French on the other hand. There is also an overlay of vocabulary taken eclectically from many other sources, such as Greek (eg ‘drama’ and ‘theatre’) and the languages of the British empire (eg ‘pyjamas’, ‘juggernaut’ from Hindi). Even native American languages are represented (eg ‘persimmon’ is Algonquin). I want to label these two basic languages, for the sake of simplicity, as Old English (OE) and Norman-French (NF) respectively. It is a good deal more complicated than this, but let us not get too technical – the distinction works in practice. I tried it out on a page of a PhD thesis I am reading, and it was pretty easy to identify the members of ea