The "Lessons of History": The Ideal of Treaty in Settler Colonial Societies

Paul Patton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher David Hume responded to the fiction that an ideal social contract assured the normative foundations of government by pointing to the violent and fraudulent origins of all political communities.1 For Hume and many others, the historical record appears to undermine the suggestion that reasonable men (for it was only men who counted as full citizens) ever have or would voluntarily come together to agree on the terms of their political association. The historical record and the objections of Hume notwithstanding, the idea of an agreement, contract, or other form of consensus on the fundamental principles of political government continues to play an important role in contemporary accounts of the normative foundations of government.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmpire by Treaty
Subtitle of host publicationNegotiating European Expansion, 1600-1900
EditorsSaliha Belmessous
Place of PublicationOxford and New York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9780199391783, 0199391785
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Colonies -- law and legislation
  • Europe -- colonies
  • Europe -- foreign relations -- treaties
  • Europe -- territorial expansion
  • Indigenous peoples -- claims -- history
  • Treaty-making power -- Europe -- history


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