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Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia
Parsi Legal Culture, 1772–1947

$99.00

Part of Studies in Legal History

  • Date Published: April 2014
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107047976

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About the Authors
  • This book explores the legal culture of the Parsis, or Zoroastrians, an ethnoreligious community unusually invested in the colonial legal system of British India and Burma. Rather than trying to maintain collective autonomy and integrity by avoiding interaction with the state, the Parsis sank deep into the colonial legal system itself. From the late eighteenth century until India’s independence in 1947, they became heavy users of colonial law, acting as lawyers, judges, litigants, lobbyists, and legislators. They de-Anglicized the law that governed them and enshrined in law their own distinctive models of the family and community by two routes: frequent intra-group litigation often managed by Parsi legal professionals in the areas of marriage, inheritance, religious trusts, and libel, and the creation of legislation that would become Parsi personal law. Other South Asian communities also turned to law, but none seems to have done so earlier or in more pronounced ways than the Parsis.

    • Based upon previously unexamined primary sources from archives rediscovered over the past decade: the Bombay High Court (Mumbai) and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (London)
    • Takes case law seriously, while most work on South Asian legal history focuses on legislation
    • One of the first studies in South Asian legal history by a scholar trained both in law and in history
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Despite its importance, there is relatively little written on Parsi law. Mitra Sharafi’s book undertakes the most detailed and informed study of the main branches of Parsi legal history. In it, Sharafi neatly straddles two readerships, the Parsi specialist and the legal fields. Through this, Sharafi offers a work that is by a long way the best study in its field, carrying the subject a long way forward. This is a superb piece of work."
    John R. Hinnells, Liverpool Hope University

    "Mitra Sharafi’s book brings to light a community that has received little attention in the historiography of South Asia, namely the Parsis. What distinguishes this community is the unique path by which they acculturated themselves into the world of colonial law, both by entering the legal profession and by crafting their own laws of marriage and inheritance. Sharafi moves deftly between Parsi cultural issues and their participation in colonial courts, both as litigants and as practitioners of colonial law. Her command over the local case law concerning Parsis, relevant newspapers, and records of London’s Privy Council are nothing short of breathtaking. This is clearly the work of a dedicated scholar, and this book will make a strong contribution to South Asian history and the study of diaspora and of colonial law more broadly."
    Chandra Mallampalli, Westmont College

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107047976
    • length: 365 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • contains: 28 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction
    Part I. Parsi Legal Culture:
    1. Using law: colonial Parsis go to court
    2. Making law: two patterns
    Part II. The Creation of Parsi Personal Law:
    3. The limits of English law: the Inheritance Acts
    4. Reconfiguring male privilege: the Matrimonial Acts
    5. The jury and intra-group control: the Parsi Chief Matrimonial Court
    Part III. Beyond Personal Law:
    6. Entrusting the faith: religious trusts and the Parsi legal profession
    7. Pure Parsi: libel, race, and group membership
    Conclusion: law and identity
    Appendix: legislation.

  • Author

    Mitra Sharafi, University of Wisconsin, Madison
    fm.author_biographical_note1

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