The British Empire created channels for imperially intended movement. Commodities, bodies, and ideas flowed along axes structured by imperial law and technology. Unintended motion also occurred along these same planes. With every legal structure meant to promote one type of behavior came litigants devising strategies to achieve the opposite. Collusion, bribery, forgery, and perjury were favorite ways to manipulate imperial law. The more permissible strategy of forum shopping was another. Forum shopping is the attempt to push one's case into a jurisdiction promising an optimal result when there is ambiguity over the controlling jurisdiction. It reveals the perception among litigants that bottom-up—and sideways—mechanics exist within legal systems. Unlike work on resistance to state law through extralegal means, I here examine the ways parties tried to work strategically within the confines of the legal system to reconfigure their marital situations. Rather than documenting the success of these maneuvers, however, I note their more common failure. The colonial courts usually saw through unconvincing attempts to forum shop. The fact that litigants continued to try reflects the ingenuity, arguably, of the “legal lottery” mechanism at work in British imperial law. Colonial law, and therefore colonial rule, reinforced its hold on subjects by dangling before them the possibility of individual relief through rule-of-law proceduralism.
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