Recent research in the history of international law


In: Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'Histoire du Droit / The Legal History Review

This review article treats the booming scholarship on the history of international law over the past decade. Works with a broader view (1), including the recent big-book syntheses and collective works, are contrasted with monographs (2), from studies of treaties and doctrine, over diplomatic practice to scholarship by historians and, finally, interdisciplinary scholarship. This texts provides a personal panorama of the wide array of scholarly perspectives on a common object: rules recognised in the community or society of states. New insights from history and social sciences, especially the turn to global history, open fresh prospects for ‘traditional’ legal historical research. Studying the encounter between ‘European’ international law and other continents rises our indispensable intercultural awareness. Yet, it should also serve to better understand the specificity of European legal thinking or diplomatic practice, and does not render research on the latter obsolete or redundant.


  • 17

     Gaurier, Histoire du droit international (supra, n. 9), p. 459. Human rights pre-exist the internal legal order, as a bundle of inalienable subjective rights. However, their transubstantiation into positive law has only been effectuated at the internal level (save the cases of the European or Latin-American Courts of Human Rights). In the international legal order, claims formulated as human rights are not yet universally enforceable (p. 461). In order to arrive at a situation of cosmopolitan or universal human rights, Gaurier starts from these realist findings, linking them to the dangers of perceived Western cultural dominance or hegemony. His reading of Kant is thus in no way utopian.

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  • 24

     Gaurier, Histoire du droit international (supra, n. 9), p. 623.

  • 27

     Gaurier, Histoire du droit international (supra, n. 9), p. 378.

  • 28

     Gaurier, Histoire du droit international (supra, n. 9), p. 1098.

  • 29

     Gaurier, Histoire du droit international (supra, n. 9), p. 546–553.

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     Fassbender and Peters, Introduction (supra, n. 37), p. 2.

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     Otte, The Foreign Office mind (supra, n. 65), p. 2.

  • 85

     D. Armitage, Foundations of modern international thought, Cambridge 2012, p. 24; D. ­Ivison, Non-cosmopolitan universalism: on Armitage’s Foundations of international political thought, History of European ideas, 41 (2015), p. 78–88.

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  • 104

     Neff, Justice among nations (supra, n. 6), p. 479.

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