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The recognition and allocation of indigenous property rights have long posed complex questions for the imperial powers of the mid-nineteenth century and their modern successors. Recognizing rights of property raises questions about pre-existing indigenous authority and power over land that continue to trouble the people and governments of settler states.
Through focusing on the settlement of New Zealand during the critical period of the 1830s through to the early 1860s, this book offers a fresh assessment of the histories of indigenous property rights and the jurisprudence of empire. It shows how native title became not only a key construct for relations between Empire and tribes, but how it acted more broadly as a constitutional frame within which discourses of political authority formed and were contested at the heart of Empire and the colonial peripheries.
Native title thus becomes another episode in imperial political history in which increasingly fierce and highly polemical contestation burst into violence. Native title explodes as a form of civil war that lays the foundation (by Maori ever after challenged) for revised constitutional orders.
Lords of the Land considers histories of indigenous property rights not only as the stuff of entwined streams of a law of nations and constitutional theory but also as exemplars of the politics of negotiability - engaging relations of struggle and ambition for power, together with the openness and limits of incoming settler polities towards indigenous polities and laws.
This study is an examination of rights as instruments of analysis and political discourse, constructed and contested in and through time. Anchored in the striking experiences of New Zealand and the politics of trans-oceanic empire, it tells a tale of indigenous political autonomy and how the vocabularies of property rights mediated relations between empire and the indigenous political communities found in newly settled lands.