Beyond Anachronism: Histories of International Law and Global Legal Politics

In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Author: Lauren Benton1
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  • 1 Vanderbilt University, Nashville, United States
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This article presents a critique of recent writings, mainly by Anne Orford, of historical methodologies in international law as supposedly focused on rooting out anachronism and separating history from the politics of the present. First, the article shows that this (mis)characterization of historical methods is based on a misreading of the work of Quentin Skinner and the Cambridge School. Second, it argues that Orford errs in assuming that the Cambridge School is representative of historical approaches. The article exposes this error by tracing key strands of socio-legal study of global legal history. That literature has generated new insights about such topics as vernacular discourses of international law and the influence of patterns of colonial politics on global ordering. This new global legal history takes ‘legal politics’ as its object of analysis while merging the study of praxis and theory in the history of international law.

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