skip to content

Dr Jamie Trinidad

Jamie is a Fellow of Wolfson College. His research focuses on public international law, constitutional law and human rights. He is particularly interested in self-determination issues, territorial disputes and the constitutional arrangements of British Overseas Territories.

Jamie completed his PhD at Cambridge. In addition to his academic work he practises as a barrister. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2001 and the Bar of Gibraltar in 2005.




Self-Determination in Disputed Colonial Territories (2018)

Book Blurb: Self-Determination in Disputed Colonial Territories addresses the relationship between self-determination and territorial integrity in some of the most difficult decolonization cases. It investigates historical cases, such as Hong Kong and the French and Portuguese territories in India, as well as cases that remain very much alive today, such as Western Sahara, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, and the Chagos Islands. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of colonial territories that are, or have been, the subject of adverse third-party claims, invariably by their neighbouring states. Self-Determination in Disputed Colonial Territories takes a contextual, historical approach to mapping the existing law and will be of interest to international lawyers, as well as scholars of international relations and students of the history of decolonization.


What made you write on this topic?

I've long been interested in the evolution of the right to self-determination, and the history of decolonization more generally. Growing up in Gibraltar I developed a specific interest in colonial territories where self-determination had been set aside or qualified in some way, often in favour of a neighbouring claimant state.

The literature on these cases – much of it from the 1970s and 1980s – didn’t seem to be in a particularly healthy state. Some scholars asserted the existence of special categories of territory (e.g. 'colonial enclaves', which are 'ethnically and economically parasitic upon or derivative of' their claimant states) that supposedly fall outside the scope of the normal decolonization rules. Others argued that the resurrection of extinct, pre-colonial territorial formations could be justified on the basis of a broad, ‘irredentist’ interpretation of the territorial integrity principle. Others seemed to conflate both types of arguments.

I didn’t find these approaches convincing, so I decided to do my own analysis of what was going on at the untidy edges of decolonization practice, looking at places like the French and Portuguese enclaves in India, West Irian, East Timor, Western Sahara, Ifni, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Belize, Mayotte, Chagos, and the Falkland Islands.


How long did it take to produce your book from initial conception to publication?

About ten years, although most of that time I wasn't actually working on it. I wrote the PhD on which the book is based between 2010 and 2013, and some of the ideas in the book first appeared in a master's thesis I wrote in 2008-9. 


What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I find academic writing a slow and painful process. Even if I'm able to set aside half a day for writing (which is rare these days) I don't get much done. I also find it difficult to switch into academic writing mode when I've been immersed in work that requires a different mindset, like drafting pleadings or teaching students.


Why should people read your book? What’s in it for those with an interest International Law?

I hope it provides a lucid account of the relationship between self-determination and territorial integrity, via a tour of some of the most unusual territorial arrangements on the planet; from the French loges and comptoirs in India, to the Panama Canal Zone, to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, to the Portuguese fort of São João Baptista de Ajudá in Benin, to the Spanish coastal exclaves in North Africa.  

Although formal decolonization is by now mostly complete, the book's themes remain relevant. For instance, it deals at length with the general prohibition against the fragmentation of non-self-governing territories, which was the central issue in the 2019 Chagos advisory proceedings, and remains a matter of concern in places like Cyprus (where the UK retains two so-called ‘Sovereign Base Areas’), the Comoros Archipelago, Madagascar and Vanuatu.


What book is currently on your bedside table?

'The Falklands War: An Imperial History', by Ezequiel Mercau (CUP 2020).


What are you working on now?

I’ve recently started working on a new project on the regulation of offshore secrecy, with my Lauterpacht Centre colleague, Dr Andrew Sanger.

See also: Article on page 6: Two-Day International Workshop: The International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion in Chagos - 11 - 12 April 2019 and