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A Victorian Embarrassment: Consular Jurisdiction and the Evils of Extraterritoriality

Cobbing, Andrew



In 1856, the Treaty of Paris nominally welcomed the Ottoman Empire into the Concert of Europe, but this exposed a deep fault line in international relations. Although the gesture implied full sovereign rights, it seemed incompatible with the extraterritorial privileges held by Europeans in Ottoman lands under the age-old capitulations. New commercial treaties complicated the issue by extending similar privileges to British subjects as far afield as China, Siam and Japan. Consular jurisdiction soon became the focus of controversy in Westminster as extraterritoriality featured prominently in local disputes following British commercial expansion across Asia, among them the Arrow incident that led to the Second Opium War. In Japan and other states, it would also become a key grievance in popular campaigns against ‘unequal treaties’ and the injustices of informal empire. This analysis shows how, even before such narratives of resistance emerged, there was already a seam of ambivalence in Victorian political discourse on the question of extraterritoriality. In the Foreign Office, it came as no surprise to be told of defects in these treaties, but it was the context of the existing debate, notably fresh initiatives to set up mixed courts, that framed the British response.


Cobbing, A. (2018). A Victorian Embarrassment: Consular Jurisdiction and the Evils of Extraterritoriality. International History Review, 40(2), 273-291.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 18, 2017
Online Publication Date Apr 7, 2017
Publication Date Mar 15, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 7, 2017
Publicly Available Date Oct 8, 2018
Journal The International History Review
Print ISSN 0707-5332
Electronic ISSN 1949-6540
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 2
Pages 273-291
Keywords Extraterritoriality, consular jurisdiction, international law
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International History Review on 7 April 2017, available online:


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