Repairing Historical Wrongs and the End of Empire

Social and Legal Studies 21 (2):227-242 (2012)


This article addresses the claim that some contemporary states may possess obligations to pay reparations as a result of the lasting effects of a particular form of historic imperialism: colonialism. Claims about the harms and benefits caused by colonialism must make some kind of comparison between the world as it currently is, and a counterfactual state where the injustice which characterised so much of historic interaction between colonisers and the colonised did not occur. Rather than imagining a world a world where there was no such interaction, this article maintains that the appropriate counterfactual is one where relations between different communities were characterized by an absence of domination and exploitation. This means that current day states may possess reparative duties which are much more extensive than is often supposed.

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Daniel Butt
Oxford University

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