The British Courts and Extra-territoriality in Japan, 1859-1899

In The British Courts and Extra-territoriality in Japan, 1859-1899, Christopher Roberts reviews the Courts' day-to-day workings and examines the nature of, and fluctuations in, their case-load. By examining the Courts’ case-load, it shows that, whilst some complaints that earlier commentators have made about the system’s structure and the Consuls’ lack of legal training and poor judgments may have been justified initially, the British authorities responded to them so that, over time, the Courts—and the practitioners within the system—came to reflect an increasing professionalism and sophistication. Using both a quantitative and a qualitative analysis of the reported cases, the author concludes that accusations of an anti-Japanese, pro-British bias on the part of the Courts are overstated.
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Biographical Note

Christopher Roberts, Ph.D. (2010), School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, is a British lawyer who formerly practiced law in Japan. He now researches, and writes upon, the work of the British Courts, Judges and Lawyers in Treaty Port Japan of the nineteenth century.

Review Quotes

"... After Japan opened up to the rest of the world in the 1850s after years of isolation, hundreds of British traders and sailors came to live in the country and became the largest Western expatriate community. But while Britain was happy to trade with Japan, it felt uneasy about the country’s legal system, which was considered rudimentary, patchy and unable to guarantee Britons a fair trial. As a result, London insisted upon setting up its own extra-territorial courts to exclusively hear criminal and civil cases involving Britons. Western nations set up similar courts in other parts of Asia as well. Retired lawyer Christopher Roberts has spent the past six years examining these little-known courts and has just published a book on the subject..." – William Hollingworth, in: The Japan Times ONLINE, (28 October, 2013) [ Full review]


All interested in Treaty Port Japan and the development of British-Japanese relations in the nineteenth century, and anyone concerned with the history of the British legal community in East Asia.


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