Beyond the Myth of a Non-relationship: International Law and World War i

in Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
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This article examines the relationship between international law and World War i from a basic perspective. The first question is whether, and to what degree, international law can or should be regarded as a contributing cause for the outbreak of World War i. Three aspects of international law prior to World War i are discussed: the silent ‘alliance’ between the ius ad bellum and social Darwinism, the lack of individual accountability of the members of the political and military elites under international law, and the role of the law of reprisal as a ‘fire accelerant’ of conflicts. The second focal point lies on central questions of international law during the war. Again, three aspects are addressed: the relationship between international law and new weapons as well as new methods of warfare, legal issues related to long-term occupations and the role of international law with respect to prisoners of war.

Beyond the Myth of a Non-relationship: International Law and World War i

in Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international




For example: Christopher ClarkThe Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (London: Allen Lane2014) (no mention in the table of contents or in the keyword register); Herfried Münkler Der Grosse Krieg. Die Welt 1914 bis 1918 (Berlin: Rowohlt 5th ed. 2014) (no mention in the table of contents or the keyword register).


John Maynard KeynesThe Economic Consequences of the Peace (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe1920) 71.


In particular see: Edward H. CarrThe Twenty Years Crisis 1919–1939 (London: Macmillan & Co.1940); Hans Joachim Morgenthau Politics Among Nations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1954).


See Martti KoskenniemiThe Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2004) 39–41.


Jörn LeonhardDie Büchse der Pandora. Geschichte des Ersten Weltkrieges (Munich: C.H. Beck2014) 1012.


John Mueller‘Changing Attitudes Towards War: The Impact of the First World War’British Journal of Political Science 21 (1991) 1–28.


P.J. Rhodes‘Thucydides on the Causes of the Peloponnesian War’Hermes 115 (1987) 154–165.


See Agathe Verdebout‘The Contemporary Discourse on the Use of Force in the Nineteenth Century: A Diachronic and Critical Analysis’Journal on the Use of Force and International Law 1 (2014) 223–246.


Robert KolbIus contra bellum: Le droit international relatif au maintien de la paix (Basel/Brussels: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 2nd ed.2009) 28.


Louis Renault‘De l’application du droit pénal aux faits de guerre’Journal du droit international 42 (1915) 313–344.


Hansjoachim W. KochDer Sozialdarwinismus. Seine Genese und sein Einfluss auf das imperialistische Denken (Munich: C.H. Beck1973) 21.


Max HuberDie Staatensuccession (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot1898) 3–4.


Hannah ArendtElemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft (Munich: Piper, 3rd ed.1993) 286–289.


Gustave Rolin-Jacquemyns‘Essai complémentaire sur la Guerre Franco-Allemande dans ses rapports avec le droit international’Revue de droit international et de législation comparée 3 (1871) 327–331.


Gustave Moynier‘Note sur la création d’une institution judiciaire international propre à prévenir et à réprimer les infractions à la Convention de Genève’Bulletin international des sociétés de secours aux militaires blessés 11 (1872) 122–131123–129.


Louis Renault‘De l’application du droit pénal aux faits de guerre’Revue générale de droit international public 25 (1918) 6–2923.


Johann Caspar BluntschliDas moderne Völkerrecht der civilisirten Staten als Rechtsbuch dargestellt (Nördlingen: C.H. Beck, 3rd ed.1878) 319.


Committee on Alleged German OutragesReport of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages (London: H.M. Stationery Off.1915) 60–61 (British report compiled according to stringent standards). More recent publication on the topic: John Horne/Alan Kramer German Atrocities 1914: A History of Denial (New Haven: Yale University Press 2001) 10–23.


Jeff LipkesRehearsals: The German Army in Belgium (Leuven: Leuven University Press2007) 44.


Virginia Woolf‘Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown’ in The Hogarth Essays (London: Hogarth Press1924) 3–244.


Christoph Menke‘Law and Violence’Law and Literature 22 (2010) 1–171; also see Ferdinand Tönnies ‘Naturrecht und Völkerrecht’ in Arno Mohr/Rolf Fechner (eds.) Ferdinand Tönnies. Complete Edition Vol. 10 (1916–1918) (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter 2008) 291–305 291.




Bernd StegemannDie Deutsche Marinepolitik 1916–1918 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot1970) 33.


Sophie De SchaepdrijverLa Belgique et la Première Guerre Mondiale (Brussels: Peter Lang2004) 87; Herbert Hoover An American Epic Vol. I: Introduction: The Relief of Belgium and Northern France 1914–1930 (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company 1959) 388.


Jean Jacques RousseauDu contrat social ou principes du droit politique (Amsterdam: Marc-Michel Rey1762) 18 (chapitre iv).


On the case of Cavell: Katie PicklesTransnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (Basingstoke: Palgrave2007).


Verena Moritz/Hannes LeidingerZwischen Nutzen und Bedrohung. Die russischen Kriegsgefangenen in Österreich 1914–1921 (Bonn: Bernard & Graefe2005) 329.


Uta HinzGefangen im Grossen Krieg (Essen: Klartext2006) 78.


See for example Heather Jones‘The German Spring Reprisals of 1917: Prisoners of War and the Violence of the Western Front’German History 26(3) (2008) 335–356.


Kramer‘Prisoners’ 2010 (n. 120), 77; see, too, Mark Spoerer, ‘The Mortality of Allied Prisoners of War and Belgian Civilian Deportees in German Custody during the First World War: A Reappraisal of the Effects of Forced Labour’Population Studies 60(2) (July 2006) 121–136.


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