Legislating Utopia

Louis Bara (1821–1857) and the Liberal-Scientific Restatement of International Law in the Nineteenth Century Peace Movement

In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Wouter De Rycke Faculty of Law and Criminology, Department of Interdisciplinary Legal Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel Brussels Belgium

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This article deals with the contribution of one exponent of the first generation of institutional pacifist internationalism to the rise of ius contra bellum. Traditionally associated with events from the late nineteenth century onwards, this significant paradigm shift knew an extensive prehistory. Legal scholarship has long dismissed the ‘peace friends’ of the mid-century as either not legalistic or solely focussed on arbitration. The article will argue that this longstanding bias has precluded a profound engagement with legal discourse within the early international peace movement. It will do so through a contextual legal analysis of the works of Louis Bara, a young Belgian lawyer who won first prize for his lengthy and controversial peace essay at the famous Paris peace conference of 1849. This neglected jurist articulated an enduring popular desire to develop a liberal international legal project, which both the peace movement and international law as a discipline increasingly internalized.

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