Pacific settlement in the pursuit of empire
In 1885, the British Crown established a protectorate over the lands of the Tswana, calling it Bechuanaland, modern–day Botswana. The following year two Tswana tribes, the Bakwena and the Bamangwato, were embroiled in a serious dispute. The issue centered on the ownership of wells in Lephepe, one of the main routes north from the trading hub of Molepolole.1 The Bakwena claimed that the wells belonged to them since time immemorial. The Bamangwato asserted that their livestock had watered themselves from those wells since ancient times. The situation was compounded after the British demarcated the Tswana chiefdoms into separate reserves (while claiming the lion share of Tswana land for themselves).2 The wells sat in a poorly defined area between the Bakwena and Bamangwato reserves. The two tribes appealed to the British authorities to determine the ownership of the wells. An arbitral commission consisting of army officers and colonial officials headed by General Goold–Adams was subsequently set up to consider the particulars of the case.3 Meeting at the site of the wells, the chief of the Bamangwato represented his people’s claims, while an eminent elder represented the Bakwena, each with their followers in attendance. The commission took witness testimony presented from both sides. After considering the evidence presented, the commission rendered their award, dividing the wells between the two.4
The Lephepe wells dispute exemplifies how the growth of colonial and commercial empires emanating from the west into the ‘peripheral’ regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America had brought independent or quasi–independent non– Western states ‘into what was now becoming a world system of diplomatic contacts’ as the historian M. S. Anderson argues.5 From an Anglo–French joint naval commission that governed (rather unsuccessfully) the island of New Hebrides in 1887 to the Anglo–Afghan boundary crimes commission set up in 1910 to deal with cross–boundary banditry along the Afghan–Indian border, the Lephepe wells dispute offers a thumbnail for a larger picture of ad hoc commissions and third–party mechanisms in the non–Western world.6 Arbitration functioned as a key element in imperial expansion and inter–imperial relations.
In an age of great power moderation and restraint, statesmen proved more than able to organize peaceful solutions amongst themselves in order to build and consolidate empire. In 1884, for example, Bismarck called for the convocation of a conference to formalize the competing claims surrounding the Congo river basin in Central Africa.7 The conference neutralized the river basin, guaranteed freedom for trade and shipping for all states, and formalized the respective claims of the various states. Similarly, when the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900–1901) threatened the foreign legations in the treaty ports and their influence in Beijing, Austria–Hungary Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States formed an eight–nation alliance in order to put down the Boxers.8
Although the nineteenth century is littered with plenty of notable instances of imperial power grabs and flashpoints such as the Anglo–French standoff during the Fashoda Incident of 1898 (and to say nothing of the genocidal practices of colonial administrators), great powers still proved more than willing to exercise a high degree of restraint and moderation amongst themselves in the pursuit of empire. Chapters 1 and 2 identified the development of enhanced great power relations and the establishment of general peace in which pacific settlement acted as an agent of great power politics, helping to facilitate a new modus vivendi for the international system. This chapter explains that the Western powers were also particularly adroit at finding common ground when their imperial interests were at stake. Concepts of balance of power, restraint, and stability developed into global ones as the ‘far eastern question’ became no less relevant than the ‘Polish question’, particularly for globally competitive powers. To that end, the Western powers used pacific settlement mechanisms as tools to manage their interactions with other states and quasi–states in their pursuit of formal empire. This chapter explores how pacific settlement both managed and extended formal empire in the context of globalization and global diplomacy. It argues that the use of pacific settlement mechanisms demonstrated the importance of arbitration as a globalizing tool for regulating formal empire and enforcing Western standards of law and order upon non–Western entities and their people.
Arbitration was an integral part of global diplomacy and played a key role in balancing out great power interests on a global scale by offering a methodical means of sorting through some of the inevitable problems involved in empire–building. The emergence of pacific settlement mechanisms in the imperial context stemmed from the imperial powers’ twin needs to firstly consolidate and order their empires and, secondly, to maintain a global modus vivendi with other imperial powers.
One of the key uses of international arbitration in matters of empire was in the delimitation and demarcation of territory. Demarcation involved the process of ascertaining and awarding a boundary, which was usually determined by a nominated arbitrator or a mixed commission, while delimitation was the actual process of topographically marking a prearranged boundary line, which was almost exclusively done by a mixed commission. The use of pacific settlement in determining boundaries reflected the changing pattern of Western imperialism. As historian Lauren Benton describes, Western powers initially focused on controlling trading zones such as ports and riverine regions from the early–modern period up to the early nineteenth century.9 With the increasing recognition of sovereignty by the, however, these powers sought to exercise control over bounded space and the people who lived therein by the mid–nineteenth century.
The demarcation and delimitation of colonies was an attempt to impose sovereignty over uncivilized realms in order to rationalize the expansive and complicated space that frequently encapsulated independent or quasi–independent indigenous groups. Sir Arthur Henry McMahon observed the difficulties of determining boundaries in 1935, referring to his experience with the Durand Line between Afghanistan and British India (now Pakistan):
For purposes of actual demarcation it was necessary not only to determine whether the various tribes concerned should rightly come under British or Afghan rule, but to ascertain—and this was a much more difficult matter—what were the territorial limits of such tribes. Semi–or wholly nomadic as some of these were, they often, at certain seasons of the year, overlapped each other’s territories, and the actual position of their intervening boundary was sometimes a matter of mere supposition or tradition. Needless to say, the raising of any question about their mutual boundary stirred up tribal feeling to a pitch of frenzy, and in the case of some of the strong, warlike tribes concerned, created situations of considerable anxiety and even danger, especially when local sentiment was further inflamed through outside intrigue.10
Introduction: Nineteenth–century pacific settlement reconsidered
1 The origins of modern pacific settlement
2 Pacific settlement and the management of great power politics
3 Pacific settlement in the pursuit of empire
4 The political economy of pacific settlement
5 The arbitration agenda for peace in the civilized world
6 The Hague and the dawn of a new era
Conclusion: The historical legacies of nineteenth–century pacific settlement
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The evolution of global politics and the pacific settlement of international disputes, 1794–1907