The Civilized and the Uncivilized

Liliana Obregón Tarazona

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599752
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law

The Civilized and the Uncivilized

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  • Civil Law



From the 16th century to the early 19th century, the concepts of civilized/uncivilized, which categorized and stratified peoples, nations, or States, were keys to the language of informal European imperialism. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the holistic Christian vision of law and morality was the entitlement for European expansion as Native Americans entered into the universe of European sovereignty. In the 18th century, Enlightenment thought brought forth the concept of the ‘human’ and its other, which allowed for an alternative conceptual pair to the previous Christian/non-Christian universal view. In the late 19th century, the language of civilization transitioned to formal imperialism sustained by international law. This chapter concludes that international law surged in the 19th century as a discipline constituted by the tension in defining its inner and outer limits between the civilized and the uncivilized.

Keywords: informal European imperialism; civilization; European expansion; international law; Enlightenment thought

Article.  10329 words. 

Subjects: Law ; History of Law ; International Law ; Civil Law

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