Organized Panel Session
In the mid-nineteenth century, India reform organizations in Britain vocally questioned the legitimacy of the East India Company’s so-called “paramountcy” over the princely states on the subcontinent. To preserve native sovereignty and prevent annexations, they readily amalgamated classical law of nations theories with more modern concepts of international law. This paper explores one such case. In the late 1850s and early 1860s reformers attempted to secure the succession of Azeem Jah, the aspiring Nawab of the Carnatic. Deeming the nawab a mere prop, the British colonial administration sought to terminate the dynasty. However, fears of Muslim fanaticism in South India led reformers to seek out a means of retaining the Muslim nawab as a “natural leader” and a loyal British ally. Reformers therefore cobbled together a fascinating variety of legal texts by Vattel, Grotius, Wheaton, and Twiss to authorize the succession and evidence the enduring nature of “real,” or permanent, treaties convened with past nawabs in the previous century. By drawing attention to the legalistic framework of the reformers’ public sphere agitation, this paper will suggest that classical law of nations theories remained central to the adjudication of Indian sovereignty amidst the rise of culturally-exclusive, positivistic legal thought.