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For each Treaty of Utrecht visiting professor, the Centre for the Humanities and the Treaty of Utrecht jointly organize an Inaugural Lecture. This semester's Treaty of Utrecht visiting professor, Martti Koskenniemi, will address the issue of Eurocentrism in international law during his Inaugural lecture. Martti Koskenniemi, Professor International Law at the University of Helsinki and advisor of the United Nations, holds in the autumn of 2011 the Treaty of Utrecht Chair at the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. His visiting professorship will focus on the actual treaty, signed in Utrecht in 1713, and its significance for current international politics and international law.
Zeitschrift des
für europäische
Thomas Duve
Olaf Berg
Nicole Pasakarnis
Armin von Bogdandy
10 Rechtsgeschichtliche Überlegungen zur Kontu-
rierung des europäischen Verwaltungsrechts
Pascale Cancik
30 Verwaltungsrechtsgeschichte
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37 Im Auftrag der Kasse
Überlegungen zum Gestaltwandel verwaltungsrechts-
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historischer Analyse
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52 Anwaltliche Argumentation mit den Wendun-
gen »Gute Policey« (1557) und »natürliche
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58 Zur Entstehung des öffentlichen Rechts in
mediävistischer Sicht
Horst Dreier
72 Säkularisierung des Staates am Beispiel der
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89 Rudolf Smend und der »2. Band«
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107 Privatrecht? Öffentliches Recht? Recht!
Karl Härter
114 Policey und Strafjustiz in Entenhausen
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im vormodernen Europa?
Hasso Hofmann
130 Zur sozialistischen Rechts- und Staatsphiloso-
phie in der DDR
AnnaBettina Kaiser
142 Ist die Begriffsgeschichte noch zu retten?
Martti Koskenniemi
152 Histories of International law: Dealing with
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178 Peter von Andlau und das kanonische Recht
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Oliver Lepsius
190 Vom Reiz der US-amerikanischen Rechts-
Pia LettoVanamo
200 Re-Thinking the Legal Vocabulary of Public
Maeva Marcus
204 The Rise of Judicial Power before
Marbury v.
Dag Michalsen
217 Law and Politics in Swedish-Norwegian Union
Law, 1814–1905 – an Elegy
228 Lebende Ruinen des Rechts
Rechtliche Metaphern in postkolonialen und spät-
modernen Rechtskulturdiskursen
Heinz Mohnhaupt
239 Historische Konkurrenzen und Beeinflussungen
zwischen Privatrecht und öffentlichem Recht
Paolo Napoli
248 Pour une histoire des »mesures«
A propos de la normativité policière
Walter Pauly
255 »Das Volk ist das Seiende, dessen Sein der Staat
Wissenschafts- und seinsgeschichtliche Bewegungen bei
Martin Heidegger und darüber hinaus
Guido Pfeifer
263 Vom Wissen und Schaffen des Rechts im Alten
Heikki Pihlajamäki
267 Translating German Administrative Law:
The Case of Finland
Merio Scattola
278 Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Recht und Politik
Christoph Schönberger
285 Wissenschaftsgeschichte als Schlüssel zur
Geschichte des öffentlichen Rechts?
Jan Schröder
294 Zivilistisches und publizistisches Denken um
1900. Zwei Beispiele
Marcel Senn
300 Wissenschaftsgeschichte als Mittlerin zwischen
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Thomas Simon
309 Das Policeyrecht des 18. Jahrhunderts als Teil
des »Teutschen Privatrechts«
Zum Verhältnis von »Recht« und »Policey«
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322 Erforschtes und Unerforschtes zur Geschichte
der Steuerrechtswissenschaft in Deutschland
Dietmar Willoweit
333 Landesstaatsrecht als Herrschaftsverfassung
des 18. Jahrhunderts
Histories of International law:
Dealing with Eurocentrism
The Gentle Civilizer of Nations
, I suggested that interna-
tional law began in the 1860’s as part of liberal entrenchment in
Europe as the clouds of nationalism, racism and socialism were
rising in the political horizon. It began as a project of practical men,
attorneys and lawyers active in politics and parliament, and not out
of philosophical contemplation or system-construction. University
professors were involved, but these were professors of something
that was seen more as a craft than a science. What they aimed at
was to »civilize« the behaviour of their nations, but also the
colonies, and to do this by coordinating liberal legislative reform
in Europe, by supporting formal empire in the colonies, and by
doing all this as part of a set of cosmopolitan legal projects they
grouped into their »international law« (
Droit international, diritto
internazionale, Völkerrecht
The »men of 1873« as I came to call them, included the Belgian
professor Ernest Nys (1851–1920) who eventually became the first
historian of the new profession. Nys had taught legal history and
jurisprudence at the
Université Libre de Bruxelles
from 1885 to
1898 and was thereupon appointed to professorship in interna-
tional law at that same university. In the opening chapters of his
Le droit international, les principes, les théories, les faits,
Nys re-
counted the history of international law as part of the expansion of
European civilization over the world. By 1904 there were forty-six
States with full sovereign rights in the »international community«
(22 European States, 21 American States, Japan, Liberia and the
Independent State of the Congo). Nys accepted the division of that
community into civilized, barbarian and savage peoples, but al-
though he limited the circle of sovereigns to those inhabited by the
first of these categories, he did not think the latter completely
excluded from the benefits international law had to offer.
On the contrary, he read the Berlin Africa conference of 1884–
85 as a powerful illustration of the will of the European powers
to protect indigenous populations and to advance their material
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
condition and rights of freedom of conscience and religion.
his colleagues Nys also engaged in long debates about the nature of
»Oriental« cultures and about the conditions of their entry as full
subjects of international law. In
L’état indépendent de Congo et le
droit international
(1903) he vigorously defended the practices of
his king, Léopold II of the Belgians, against the malevolent accu-
sations he attributed to commercially motivated interests in Brit-
In a work from 1893 Nys found the »origins of international
law« in the European renaissance and saw »modern« international
law crystallise with the Peace of Westphalia (1648), the symbol of
the system of independent states (
Droit public de l’Europe
). Three
great ideas had dominated history, he argued – progress, freedom
and the »idea of humanity«.
With »progress«, Nys meant Euro-
pean modernity as he saw it around himself – a non-confessional
political order with advances in economics and technology. »Free-
dom«, at least judged by the story he had to tell, meant liberation
from the universal pretensions of the Catholic Church and the
Holy Roman Empire while the idea of »humanity« connoted the
view of all human societies being linked in a universal community
with expanding realization of the benefits of civilization. Nys
began his account with Roman
jus gentium,
and the disputes be-
tween the papacy and the empire. »The programme of the future«,
he wrote, was initiated in the 14
century by radical thinkers such
as Marsilius of Padua and William of Ockham.
International law
grew up from Christian debates on the just war, and from inter-
sovereign activities in commerce, arbitration, diplomacy, and the
uses of the seas. Spanish scholastics were the first to articulate a
law between independent communities and Grotius founded »the
science of international law« by joining humanism and secularism
with definite abandonment of universal empire.
Nys confessed
himself an admirer of England’s liberties and »progress« that for
him meant civilization, secularism, humanism and the universal
freedom of trade. Together with the balance of power, these would
form the basis of international order.
Later historians have extended this narrative to the present.
The long entries on the history of international law in the 1962
by Wolfgang Preiser, Ernst Reib-
stein and Ulrich Scheuner, for example, are structured so as to use
the Peace of Westphalia as the definitive break between the ancient
Martti Koskenniemi
E. Nys
, Le droit international, les
principes, les théories, les faits,
3 volumes, Brussels 1904–1906,
1912, Vol. I, 117–118, 126.
2 For these debates, see my Gentle
Civilizer of Nations. The Rise and
Fall of International Law 1870–
1960, Cambridge 2002, 11–178
and especially 155–166.
E. Nys
, Les origines du droit in-
ternational, Bruxelles 1893, 404
4 »Les réformes qu’ils avaient rêvées
furent menées à bonne fin; la so-
ciété laïque se dégagea de plus en
plus des chaînes dont l’Eglise avait
voulu le charger; l’Etat moderne se
constitua en dehors et au-dessus
des confessions religieuses«,
Origines (n. 3) 42.
Origines (n. 3) 10–12, 401
, Origines (n. 3) 164.
origins and the »time of European international law« (1648–
The 19
century then became that of the »widening of
European international law«.
In this (standard) account, Euro-
pean hegemony was broken only in the 20
century with universal
international institutions representing »Die Einheit der Völker-
In the 1960s began the increasing specialization
and diversification of the craft – the expansion of international law
in different humanitarian, economic and technical fields, the period
Wolfgang Friedmann memorably labelled that of »changing struc-
All this, we now read, has led to a move from the political
form of statehood into some kind of universal existence, perhaps
»globalization«, perhaps, as Wilhelm Grewe put it in 2000, into an
uncertain oscillation between »international community« and the
hegemony of a single superpower.
This familiar account of global modernity was first recounted
among late-19
century European elites. Today we meet it at in-
stitutions of higher learning everywhere; its point is to inculcate in
the members of the professional classes a certain manner of re-
flecting on the world and on one’s historical place in it. Cultural
markers such as »antiquity«, »the Renaissance« or »globalization«
are as much part of it as are technical terms such as »cannon-
shot rule«, »Concert of Europe«, or »humanitarian intervention«.
Though all such notions bear the marks of their European origin,
they enable lawyers from all over the world to communicate with
each other by invoking widely shared historical associations and
a normative teleology in which an idealized Europe, coded as
nationhood, capitalism, »modernity« or »rule of law«, marks the
horizon of its imagination.
These histories are profoundly Eurocentric. Europe is their
geographical, political and conceptual centre. Münster and Os-
nabrück may be small German towns in today’s North-Rhine
Westphalia and Lower Saxony but whether the Peace of West-
phalia for which they provided the location has the role tradition-
ally attributed to it, or is simply a »myth«,
it remains central to
the historiography of the field, crystallizing the view that when
international law became »modern«, it also became a law of
»states« that resembled those European communities that had
consolidated themselves as »legal subjects« or »persons« distinct
from their rulers on elite groups. The exact dating of the emergence
of the idea of »sovereignty« that lifts the immaterial entity of the
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
W. Pre i s e r
, Völkerrechtsgeschich-
te, in:
K. Strupp, H.-J. Schlo-
, Wörterbuch des Völker-
rechts. Dritter Band, Berlin 1962,
690a. For a very similar discus-
sion, see e. g .
A. Wagner
schichte des Völkerrechts, Stutt-
gart 1936.
E. Reibstein
, Zeit des europäi-
schen Völkerrechts (1648–1815),
Strupp / Schlochauer
Wörterbuch (n. 7) 703.
U. Scheuner
, Neueste Entwick-
lung (seit 1914), in:
Strupp /
, Wörterbuch (n. 7)
10 W. Friedmann, The Changing
Structure of International Law,
London 1964. This development
was also noted in
Neueste Entwicklung (n. 9) 755
W. G. Gre we
, The Epochs of In-
ternational Law, Berlin 2000,
12 The view of an idealized Europe
as the indispensable horizon of
modern historical consciousness
is well presented in
D. Chakra-
, Provincializing Europe.
Postcolonial Thought and Histor-
ical Difference, Princeton 2000.
13 For challenges to the centrality of
»Westphalia«, see e. g.
B. Tesch-
, The Myth of 1648. Class,
Geopolitics and the Making of
Modern International Relations,
London 2003.
»State« into the position of a »moral entity« is a favourite topic of
debate among historians. But whether »statehood« (and thus
»modern international law«) emerged with North-Italian city
states in the 13
century or among the nominalist contemplations
among the »
« at the University of Paris in the 14
centuries, or whether one had to wait until the reaction to the
religious wars in the 16
and 17
centuries, there is no quarrel
about the place one has to look at.
The histories of
jus gentium
, natural law, and the law of
Droit public de l’Europe
are situated in
Europe; they adopt a European vocabulary of »progress« and
»modernity«. Key distinctions in it between »political« and »eco-
nomic«, »secular« and »religious« as well as »private« and »pub-
lic« point to European experiences and conceptualizations. Even
if postcolonialism has now become international law’s official
ethos, it still remains the case that »Europe rules as the silent
referent of historical knowledge«.
This is true not only of the
materials of the narrative but of the standards of historiography
itself. What kind of history of international law would it be that
made no reference to the »fall of the Roman empire« or to the rise
of Protestantism, that examined colonization without the use of
vocabularies of
jus gentium
? European stories, myths
and metaphors continue to set the conditions for understanding
international law’s past as it does for outlining its futures.
Nys told the familiar story of Europe’s expansion to world
dominance. The non-European world appeared occasionally in the
form of »infidel« Turks or the Saracens, enemies at war or trade
partners to Christian Europe, sometimes as the enigmatic world of
China that refused to yield its secrets to European diplomats. But
all of them tended to fall into the indiscriminate mass of peoples
the men of 1873 sweepingly called the »Orient«. They were not
uncritical admirers of Europe’s colonial past. As Protestant lib-
erals, they had no difficulty in attacking religious or imperial
justifications as appropriate standards for European overseas
behaviour. With more or less hesitation, they adopted a vocabulary
of »civilization« to capture the narrative of secularization and
Martti Koskenniemi
, Provincializing
Europe (n. 12) 28.
state-formation within overall developmental assumptions about
the modernity that they expected would enable them to assess,
among other things, whether an Oriental nation might be capable
of sharing in the benefits provided by what they only recently had
ceased calling »European public law«.
In fact, soon after its
establishment the
Institut de droit international
commenced a
study on the matter. A questionnaire was sent to the members in
which they were called upon to give their view as to whether the
customs and beliefs in the West and the Orient – including the
binding force of treaties – were sufficiently alike so that identical
rules could be applied between them (and so that the systems of
unequal treaties and consular jurisdiction could be dismantled).
Nothing came of this project. The »Oriental« states were simply
too different to allow for generalizations.
Although there was never any clear-cut standard of civiliza-
tion, the
language of civilization
remained to mark out a difference
that seemed palpable but that did not yield itself to a detailed
articulation. It became a practical instrument for managing differ-
ence and satisfying oneself of the moral power of the law. With-
out clear substantive content, it allowed Europeans to make the
distinctions they needed without having to explain too much. After
the Great War, however, few lawyers persisted in using that lan-
guage in the old way. After four years of indiscriminate slaughter of
its young men, Europe turned inwards. International lawyers
began blaming an exaggerated sense of »sovereignty«, national
egoism, a loss of the sense of humanity in Europe as the culprit for
the disaster. They now grasped at progressive social theories that
pointed to some kind of world-wide community as the
human development. The normative standard earlier provided by
»civilization«, was replaced by progressive sociology, »moderni-
zation« and economic and technological development. After the
Second World War, these languages became increasingly profes-
sionalized, and from around 1960, started to be integrated into
international law itself. With the diversification of international
law’s projects into free trade, third world development, human
rights, environmental protection, and more recently into fighting
against »impunity« and setting up international executive author-
ity to »protect« vulnerable populations, international law found
its way home in a universal teleology of progressive humanitari-
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
15 The classic is of course
G. Gong
The ›Standard of Civilization‹ in
International Society, Oxford
Kosk ennie mi
, Gentle Civilizer
(n. 2) 132–136.
European legal thought had always been intensely teleological.
As natural law turned away from theology – the moment Nys
identified as the »origin« – eschatology was replaced by the view of
secular progress that led human societies from the »state of nature«
to ever higher forms of civil co-existence and cooperation. The
»anarchy« of the pre-statal situation would be left behind as civil
communities would provide protection and welfare to their mem-
bers, now described as the citizens of their communities. The idea a
fully secular
salus populi
as the objective of government was first
expressed by the Jesuit Francisco Suárez in early 17
century, but
was adopted in Protestantnatural law by Samuel Pufendorf and his
century followers. They also combined it with the providenti-
alist view according to which an enlightened regard for one’s own
well-being would convince everyone of the necessity for commerce
and interaction with others so that out of initial egoism, the
greatest benefit for all would follow.
With the demise of natural-
ism at the end of the 18
century, European teleologies began to
express themselves in the languages of philosophy (Kant) and po-
litical economy (Smith).
Few essays have more importance in articulating the project
of international law in Europe than Immanuel Kant’s 1784 »Idea
for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose«.
That text
is important not only because it sketches the future of humanity
in terms of a »cosmopolitan existence« that Kant later was to
suggest would emerge through the operation of (international) law,
but owing to its nonchalant assumption that on the way to this
goal Europe »will probably legislate eventually for all other con-
Because history’s cosmopolitan end was a rational ne-
cessity, and law its privileged means, juristic training and practice
were automatically embedded with a progressive ethos. What kind
of international law would it be that had no
natural law not only fed the growth of philosophy but also of
political economy as privileged sites of teleological thinking. In his
lectures on jurisprudence Adam Smith famously canvassed a four-
stage progressive history of human societies that led from hunters
and shepherds to agriculturalists and finally to commerce.
and Kant identified the highest stage of humanity with the evolu-
tionary ladder where they happened to find themselves.
Martti Koskenniemi
17 See e. g.
J. Viner
Providence in the Social Order.
An Essay in Intellectual History,
Princeton 1972, 27– 28, 42–43.
18 See
M. Koskenniemi
and Practice for Universal History
with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, in:
Terror, Peace and Universalism.
Essays on the Philosophy of Im-
manuel Kant, ed. by
B. Puri,
H. Sievers
, Oxford 2007, 122–
19 I
tory with a Cosmopolitan Pur-
pose, in: Political Writings, ed. by
H. Reiss
, Cambridge 1991, 52.
20 For the content and influence of
Smith’s four-stages theory, see
I. Hont
, Jealousy of Trade. Inter-
national Competition and the
Nation-State in Historical Per-
spective, Cambridge, MA 2005,
101–103 and passim.
Evolutionary thinking followed international from its incep-
tion. Like Nys, Henry Sumner Maine was a professional historian
whose brief period in the Whewell Chair in Cambridge was
initiated in 1887 by an inaugural lecture where Maine discussed
the history of international law in terms of the spread of Roman
law all over Europe. »We may answer pretty confidently that its
rapid advance to acceptance by civilised nations was a stage,
though a very late stage, in the diffusion of Roman law over
The result was a law of Christian nations:
»They form together a community of nations united by religion, manners,
morals, humanity and science, and united also by the mutual advantage of
commercial intercourse, by the habit of forming alliances and treaties with each
other, of exchanging ambassadors, and of studying and recognising the same
writers and systems of public law.«
Like Smith, Maine shared the view that the history of human
societies (or »progressive societies«) had developed through »sta-
ges« from less to increasingly more sophisticated forms, famously
»from status to contract«.
The »savages« of Africa and the
»barbarians« of the Orient (to borrow James Lorimer’s terminol-
ogy) manifested forms of life that Europeans had long ago left
behind. It was the task of legal history, Maine suggested, to
examine these primitive forms so as to generalise from them about
the universal laws of legal development. In this way, he was able
to calm a European public that had become anxious about the
experience of diversity that seemed suggested by the widening of its
horizon. Cultural variations could now be explained as different
stages in a single, uniform process. Order and hierarchy would be
restored and Europeans would once again find themselves at the
Until late-19
century, histories of international law were un-
thinkingly Eurocentric. Europe served as the origin, engine and
of historical knowledge. In the 20
century, it became more
difficult to articulate the normative goal of international law. In
his 1908 review of the field, Lassa Oppenheim included in his call
for a »positive science« of international law an exhortation for
more history of the development of the (European) rules, that is to
say of the growth of international law as a part of the Western
civilization – a task as Matt Craven recently pointed out, »would
be both celebratory and instructive«, providing a historical sense of
Europe’s world prominence as well as a tool for lawyers to operate
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
H. S. Maine
, International Law.
A Series of Lectures Delivered be-
fore the University of Cambridge
1887, 2nd edition, London 1915,
22 Maine, International Law (n. 21)
H. S. Maine
, Ancient Law, New
York 1968 [1861], 141
24 See
J. W. Burrow
, Evolution and
Society, Cambridge 1966 and my
Gentle Civilizer (n. 2) 74–76.
existing rules in a professional way.
Most 20
century reflection
has followed upon this. Instead of being dressed as a project for
»civilization« – indeed that 19
century word is routinely exor-
cised from the field – international law now appears as a modernis-
ing project, a state-building project, a project for economic and
technological development, for human rights protection, for con-
serving natural resources and seeing to global security.
All of this
now appears scientific, factual and functional, without any geo-
graphical or cultural bias at all. Histories of international law such
as those by Scheuner, cited above, depict the 20
century in terms
of turn away from Eurocentrism to universal institutions designed
to carry out the technical and functional tasks called for by the
management of a globally interdependent world. For example, the
historical section at the beginning of Antonio Cassese’s recent
textbook notes while »international law rules and principles [of
the 19
century] were the product of Western civilization and bore
the imprint of Eurocentrism«, the »composition of the world com-
munity« has now changed radically. The Third World has been
fully integrated law-making so that the most recent »developmen-
tal stage« can be characterised in terms of the emergence of special
bodies (on trade, human rights, environment, development and so
on) engaged in constant »interpenetration and cross-fertilization«
so that, finally:
»… at least at the normative level the international community is becom-
ing more integrated and – what is even more important – such values as human
rights and the need to promote development are increasingly permeating
various sectors of international law that previously seemed impervious to
As political history, Cassese appears to suggest, the history of
international law has come to an end. Only functional tasks remain
to which international lawyers should now fully devote themselves.
Another recent history agrees:
»le droit international d’aujourd’hui se voit attribuer les finalités nouvelles
qui ne sont plus fondées sur le respect des intérêts des Etats mais reposent sur
des valeurs communes aux hommes: l’environnement, la protection des droits
de l’homme, le patrimoine commun de l’humanité, le développement du-
rable …«
After a few years of concern over international law’s »frag-
mentation«, the sobering conclusion has been reached that by
coordination among experts eventual clashes between functional
Martti Koskenniemi
M. Craven
national Law and its Histories, in:
Time, History and International
Law, ed. by
maurice, M. Vogiatzi
2007, 1–2.
26 See
Th. S k out e ris
, The Notion
of Progress in International Law
Discourse, The Hague 2010.
A. Cassese
, International Law,
2nd edn., Oxford 2005, 45, 30.
M.-H. Renaut
, Histoire du droit
international public, Paris 2007,
regimes may be managed. Now Kant’s cosmopolitan project has
been articulated in the language of globalization – though there is
no guarantee that Kant would have agreed.
This view remains as much a teleological narrative as any – it
is a view that originates in Europe but is ubiquitous in today’s
international law and institutions. Commenting upon the allied
occupation regime in Rhineland in the 1920’s Carl Schmitt wrote
that a nation is only then vanquished »when it allows foreign
powers to determine what central constitutional concepts mean«.
Schmitt had in mind such expressions as »status quo«, »inter-
vention«, »peace« and »disarmament«.
We may be dubious
about the political direction of Schmitt’s attacks but not about
the conceptual theory of power he was putting forward. The
narrative of international law that depicts progress in terms of a
unified »international community« emerging from functional
differentiation and technical professionalism speaks a thoroughly
Eurocentric language. When international institutions delineate
their jurisdiction through »human rights«, »free trade«, »fight
against impunity«, »protecting the environment«, »advancing
investment« or think of their activity in terms of »modernization«,
»sustainable development«, »state-building«, »structural adjust-
ment« or »responsibility to protect«, they subscribe to languages
whose native speakers come from universities, think-tanks and civil
society institutions in Europe and the United States. Viewing the
shifts of vocabulary from the Spanish scholastics to »good gov-
ernance«, the League of Nations’ mandates system to the »war on
terror«, Tony Anghie concluded that »whatever the contrasts and
imperialism is constant
In writing this, he was
making the old point about Europe always imagining its values
as universal and its knowledge and science as not only valid for
itself but for all. Whatever generosity may be involved, the point
is never only about good intentions. When Western speech be-
comes universal, its native speakers – the West – will be running the
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
29 I rather doubt this. See my Con-
stitutionalism as Mindset. Reflec-
tions on Kantian Themes about
International Law and Globaliza-
tion, in: Theoretical Inquiries in
Law 8 (2007) 9–36.
C. Schmitt
, Die Rheinlande als
Objekt internationaler Politik
(1925), in:
C. Schmitt
, Positionen
und Begriffe im Kampf mit Wei-
mar – Genf – Versailles, Berlin
A. Anghie
, Imperialism, Sover-
eignty and the Making of Inter-
national Law, Cambridge 2004,
32 Outoftheverywideliteratureon
this point, see e. g.
I. Waller-
, European Universalism.
There are two broad ideal-types of international legal history:
»realist« narratives that concentrate on State power and geo-
politics and view international law’s past in terms of the succession
of apologies for State behaviour and »idealist« histories that focus
on lawyers and philosophers and view the past through debates
about legal principles or institutions. As I have elsewhere shown
in detail, neither of these is sustainable alone, without help from
its counterpart.
They are best seen as presumptive positions or
biases – the one foregrounding diplomacy, warfare and the act of
conquest over which law would throw a veil of justification, the
other privileging the development of laws, institutions and doc-
trines to which the world of diplomacy and State power only
provide the background. In both, the non-European world has
tended to appear as an object of European policy or thought about
that policy. An example of the former »apologetic« strand of
international legal history is Arthur Nussbaum’s
Concise History
of the Law of Nations
(second edition 1954) that is openly critical
of telling international law’s past as a history of its doctrines.
Nussbaum wanted to concentrate on diplomacy and treaty rela-
tions as the solid (»realist«) basis for his legal history. Accordingly,
he described the meeting of »west and east« by reference to
consular and capitulation treaties. During the period 1648–1815
we encounter the Ottoman Empire and »countries outside Europe«
in four pages devoted to their treaty relations with Europe.
Consular relations with Turkey, widening of international law to
South America, »open door policy« in China and the ending of
»Japanese seclusion« are addressed in Nussbaum’s account of the
But »[t]he widening of the Western law of nations
to the Far East did not involve the fusion of European and Asiatic
ideas. The European conception prevailed as to substance and
form«. Though Nussbaum accepted that in the 19
century this
law had become universal, he doubted if it had really »rooted in
[non-European] minds«.
Examining the present world (of the
1950s), Nussbaum viewed its most important aspect through the
split between the Soviet Union and the West, a division, as he put it,
between »serfdom [and] independence of nations«.
Wilhelm Grewe’s widely read 1984/2000 ultra-realist account
of international law followed Carl Schmitt’s
Nomos der Erde
Martti Koskenniemi
M. Koskenniemi
to Utopia. The Structure of Inter-
national Legal Argument. Reissue
with a New Epilogue, Cambridge
A. Nussbaum
, A Concise History
of the Law of Nations, 2nd ed.
New York 1954, 51–60, 121
(n. 34) 194–196.
(n. 34) 196.
(n. 34) 290.
finding a natural place for the non-European world as object of
European land-taking and colonisation.
The »foundation of the
international legal community«, Grewe wrote, lay with the »occi-
dental Christian community«. After the late Middle Ages, the voice
of Christianity was seized by the succession of Spanish, French,
British empires, the 20
century inter-war »Anglo-American con-
dominium« and finally the »global community dominated by the
West«. Grewe was as dismissive as Nussbaum of the »idealist«
histories that committed a »methodologically questionable sepa-
ration of theory and practice«.
Grewe (and Schmitt) are ironi-
cally in broad agreement with postcolonial histories that have
likewise read doctrinal writings (for example by the Spanish
scholastics) as a soft glove over the imperial fist. They also agree
on the centrality of colonialism as »one of the greatest problems of
territorial order in the history of humanity«.
Only Europeans
were active in it: »the newly discovered continents were only an
object of European political manoeuvring. They were not a self-
reliant sphere of activity with its own centres of gravity.«
Nothing was said by Grewe about the African or Indian empires,
thenativecommunitiesintheAmericas, Australia, New Zealand
or the Chinese sphere. The British age of the 19
century witnessed
»semi-admissions and partial recognitions« of some extra-Euro-
pean nations to the »international legal community« – by which
was meant the community to which the originally European law of
nations would apply.
In the geopolitical histories of Grewe or Karl-Heinz Ziegler,
history’s moving force are large imperial centres that radiate their
influence all over the world and thus determine the nature of the
global legal order. From the »Spanish age« we move on to the
»French age« and to the »British age« and then to the »American
age«. In the present age, the most important struggles are waged
between blocks seeking to arrogate to themselves the status of
representative of the »international community« whose words
determine what counts as »law«. Many kinds of critiques can be
made against such histories. No empire is ever a homogenous
entity but is always split against itself by uncertainty about where
its interests lie and what should be done to realize them. Internal
oppositions and sectional interests clash on the determination of
imperial policy and imperial agents outside the metropolis tend to
act unpredictably. The external world is no passive receptacle of
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
38 English translation
Epochs (n. 11);
C. Schmitt
Nomos der Erde im Völkerrecht
des Ius publicum europeaum,
Berlin 1950.
, Epochs (n. 11) 2.
, Epochs (n. 11) 229.
, Epochs (n. 11) 295.
, Epochs (n. 11) 465.
K.-H. Ziegler
, Völkerrechtsge-
schichte, Munich 1994.
imperial influences but plays the centre’s factions against each
other using imperial favour or opposition to advance its agendas.
Also, realist history fails to account for the conflicting forces of
knowledge and value that go to structure hegemonic »interests« as
a more or less stable foundation for »policy«. It has no sense for the
dependence of policy-making on underlying transnational social
and economic structures.
The very proliferation of »realist«
histories not only between Grewe and Nussbaum, but also between
their type of Western realism and, for example, Marxian accounts
of international legal history as the history of a commodity-form
reacting to the development of capitalism testifies to their depend-
ence on epistemic and political frameworks (»what in the past is
significant, what is not, what is ›power‹, and who its identifiable
agent?«) that are rarely discussed in them.
And finally, it is un-
clear to what extent such histories are histories of »law« in the first
place – their tendency after all is to reduce normative languages
to pale reflections of the forces of Realpolitik in a way that fails
to account for the shifting uses of law between hegemonic and non-
hegemonic actors and the anterior, power-conferring aspects of
law. Law itself is never a single norm but it is the norm and the
exception, the principle and the counter-principle, the justification
and the critique of hegemonic interests: after all »a large number of
Afro-Asians attaining independence during the post-Second World
War period utilized international legal norms in their struggles for
national liberation«.
Such heterogeneous uses of international
law fail to be captured in the realist radar-screen that only registers
what State power or military might produce but rarely what it is
that produces them.
Grewe was not oblivious of the way the international law’s
Eurocentrism had began to be questioned by the time he published
the second German edition of his work (1984). The Polish-British
legal historian C. H. Alexandrowicz had advanced the view that
the relations between the Europeans and the Islamic and East
Indian communities had in fact, until the 19
century, been based
on a widespread network of reciprocal treaty relations and that it
had not been until the 19
century when, owing to the rise of
»positivism«, Europeans had began to impose their behavioural
standards on others.
Alexandrowicz’ work constituted a first
opening for the treatment of non-Europeans as independent agents
in international law, even as he, too, surveyed them through the
Martti Koskenniemi
44 Ihavemadesomeofthesecri-
tiques in A History of Interna-
tional Legal Histories, in:
Peters, Bardo Fassbender
cyclopedia of International Legal
History (Oxford University Press,
forthcoming) and in a book review
in: Kritische Justiz (2002) 277
281. For the tentative, porous and
even contradictory operation of
empire, see now
Lauren Benton
A Search for Sovereignty. Law and
Geography in European Empires
1400–1900, Cambridge 2010.
45 For such points, see e. g.
J. Rosen-
, The Empire of Civil Society,
London 1994;
Tes c h ke
(n. 13).
46 For such an alternative realist ac-
count, see
Ch. Miéville
, Between
Equal Rights. A Marxist Theory
of International Law, Leiden 2005,
especially Ch. 3 and 6. A partic-
ularly striking illustration of the
biases of realist historiography is
given by a recent collective volume
on neorealist approaches among
the contributors of which we find
such leading lights of the move-
ment as Richard Rosencrace,
Robert Keohane, Niall Ferguson
and Paul Schroder. None of the 16
essays takes up colonialism or the
third world. The obsession is with
US power and any historical ex-
amination has meaning only if it
illuminates problems or dilem-
mas in American foreign policy.
E. R. May, R. Rosencrace,
Z. Steiner
, History and Neoreal-
ism, Cambridge 2010.
Y. On u m a
, A Transcivilizational
Perspective on International Law
Leiden 2010, 349.
C. H. Alexandrowicz
duction to the Law of Nations in
the East Indies (16
centuries), Oxford 1967;
, Doctrinal Aspects of the
Universality of the Law of Na-
tions, in: British Year Book of
International Law 37 (1961),
where he uses Georg Friedrich von
Martens to illustrate the move
from natural to positive law and
the consequent need for non-
European nations to see »the so-
called admission or re-admission
of extra-European nations« in the
community of nations, 515.
lens of European concepts of (universal) natural law. But Grewe
retorted that these contacts had not taken place within any idea of
a universal legal system – the »true international legal community«
remained that of Christian-European nations that may have
entered into occasional relations with others but never envisaged
this taking place under a single, neutral legal order. There was no
symmetry, and through such links European law »gradually grew
into a global legal order, the members of which were, it is true, only
the ›civilized nations‹«.
The realist frame operates behind the histories of many legal
institutions of relevance to the non-European world. For example,
the studies in the 1920s by Lindley and Goebel on the law of
territory, though very useful and in some of their detail frankly
irreplaceable, were written completely from the perspective of the
law as an instrument of empire.
Goebel, for instance, described
the law relating to colonial contacts in the Southern Atlantic
through the prism of the law of occupation on non-European
territory as extrapolated from the treaties Europeans had con-
cluded to coordinate their activities. Even the »negro slave trade«
was relevant only as part of the struggle for Atlantic trade in the
and 18
A completely different approach was
taken by Jörg Fisch in his
Die europäische Expansion und das
Instead of adopting the passive voice of the
»growth« of a »system« Fisch, a student of Reinhardt Koselleck’s,
the father of
, examined the rules on territory,
trade, diplomacy and warfare in view of the hegemonic policies of
European actors and by devoting sections to their direct relations
with the non-Europeans. What Fisch presented, for the first time,
was an extensive and nuanced account of the temporal and geo-
graphical variations of the colonial encounter. He also gave room
to occasional reciprocity and varying hierarchies in which – for
example in the Chinese sphere – Europeans sometimes found them-
selves in a subordinate position. Fisch also included in his account
an over 200-page chronology of the »self-interpretations« by the
Europeans of what they were doing – that is to say, a history of
doctrines relating to the status of the overseas territories.
Schmitt and Grewe Fisch maintained that Europeans had never
regarded the overseas territories as a »
rechtsleeren Raum
the principle »no peace beyond the line« would have been generally
applied by them.
The Europeans conceived their rules as univer-
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
, Epochs (n. 11) 466. 50
M. F. Lindley
, The Acquisition
And Government Of Backward
Territory In International Law:
Being A Treatise On The Law And
Practice Relating To Colonial Ex-
pansion, London 1926;
J. Goe-
, The Struggle For The Falk-
land Islands. A Study of Diplo-
matic History, New Havn, Conn.
, Struggle (n. 50) 139,
J. Fisch
, Die europäische Expan-
sion und das Völkerrecht. Die
Auseinandersetzungen um den
Status der überseeischen Gebiete
vom 15. Jahrhundert bis zur Ge-
genwart, Stuttgart 1984.
, Die europäische Expansion
(n. 52) 153–380.
54 See e. g. the summary in
Die europäische Expansion (n. 52)
sal, while answers to the question what kind of rights non-Euro-
peans might enjoy thereunder varied between the two extremes.
Fisch also detected the persistence of colonial relations after the
attainment of formal independence.
The result was a study that is
still the most complete work on the now fashionable theme of
»international law and empire«, though not widely read owing to
the disappointing Anglo-centrism in international law today.
Geopolitically oriented histories reduce the law to a passive
reflection of hegemonic policy and must therefore be supplemented
by other kinds of study that account for the law’s power-conferring
and counter-hegemonic aspects as well as its »internal« ideological
and intellectual developments. But these types of international legal
history tend to be no less Eurocentric. Classical examples are
Albert de Lapradelle’s
Maîtres et doctrines
from 1950 that includes
accounts only of the lives and writings of a few European men –
jurists, diplomats, legal thinkers – and the Alsatian Robert Reds-
lob’s history of the four »great principles« of international law
(binding force of treaties, the freedom of the State, equality and
solidarity) that, he claims, have travelled through 2000 years of
Western legal thought and policy.
A more recent work by Agnès
Lejbowicz’ (1999) also examined the intellectual history of inter-
national law in view of the persistent effort towards universality
by limiting itself to discussing what European philosophers and
lawyers have said about the matter. Although the work puts in-
tersubjectivity in a culturally diverse world in its centre, no non-
European voice can be heard to speak in it.
Such histories of
cosmopolitan (legal) thought are often conceived as discussions
of the Western philosophical tradition that is assumed to begin
with the Stoics and to peak in Cicero, Grotius, Kant and Wilson.
Grandes principes
is squarely within that tradition. The
degree to which the tradition is more complex than may seem at
the surface is illustrated, however, by Redslob’s ready acceptance
that the principles of his account may often have been used to
further imperial interests and that the only solid basis for a terri-
torial right was the existence of a de facto »power to command«.
No indigenous voice appears. The non-European was absent as an
independent actor so that although the ideas of »solidarity« and
»equality« were indeed »universal«, he found them expressed only
by European thinkers (Grotius, Wolff, Vattel, Bentham, Kant …)
and relevant only for Europe.
Martti Koskenniemi
, Die europäische Expansion
(n. 52) 498–499.
, Die europäische Expansion
(n. 52) 503.
A. G. de Lapradelle
doctrines du droit dens gens, 2nd
ed. Paris 1950;
R. Redslob
toire des grands principes du droit
des gens depuis l’antiquité jusqu’a
la veille de la grande guerre, Paris
A. Lejbowicz
, La philosophie du
droit international. L’impossible
capture de l’universalité, Paris
, Histoire des grands
principes (n. 57) 441.
, Histoire des grands
principes (n. 57) 271–274, 290
An additional problem in works such as Redslob or Lejbowicz
is that it all seems as if it were possible to carry a timeless con-
versation on perennial problems between the living and the dead.
Such classical »history of ideas« tends to view legal rules, principles
or institutions either as travelling as it were unchanged through
time or then as »developing« to their full maturity in the present.
In both cases, they commit the sin of anachronism. But legal and
political concepts are parts of the legal language of each period;
their meaning cannot be grasped without a grasp of that lan-
guage. This is why projecting an unchanging meaning for a notion
(Redslob’s »four principles«, Lejbowicz’ dilemma of humanity and
statehood) or seeing its earlier appearances as merely »undevel-
oped« uses of present concepts conveys no sense at all of what such
notions may have meant to those who used them as part of their
legal-political vocabularies at earlier moments in time. The mean-
ing of a concept such as »sovereignty«, »
jus gentium
«, »property«,
or indeed »law« is dependent on the context where it is used –
especially on what one intends to use it
or what one tries to
through it.
This is especially obvious for legal concepts
that belong to polemical language-games in which we seek to
support ourselves (or our friends) while attacking our adversaries.
Of course, contextual historians (such as followers of Koselleck or
Quentin Skinner) disagree about what the right context (language)
is. Is it the academic context where the jurist lives or the political-
economic or professional context where that person operates? Is it
a context of books or guns, exchanges of language or exchanges of
But such disagreements only highlight the larger point,
namely that histories of international law come to us through the
historian’s own conceptual prejudices thus underlining the political
and rhetorical aspects of legal history itself.
The recent international law history by Dominic Gaurier
(2005) seeks to situate the »grandes figures« of the European
canon in their temporal and doctrinal-thematic context. The en-
counter with the non-European world is included among one of
the sub-items of the six »great themes« around which the book
is structured. The 25-page discussion reviews the conditions of
territorial occupation in the classical writers and discusses the
treatment of American Indians in 19
century US Supreme Court
practice. The section highlights the emergence of effective occupa-
tion and »agriculture« as bases of European title and the classics
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
61 See e. g.
Q. Skinner
Understanding in the History of
Ideas, in: Visions of Politics. Re-
garding Method, Cambridge
2002, 57–89.
62 See e. g.
E. M. Wood
, Citizens to
Lords. A Social History of West-
ern Political Thought from Antiq-
uity to the Middle Ages, London
2008, 4–11.
are presented (perhaps anachronistically) from the perspective of
their treatment of native communities as »legal subjects«.
discussion of colonization is not situated in any general theory of
European imperialism. But French jurists have also expressed in-
terest in the Eurocentrism. A series of essays edited by Emmanuelle
Jouannet and Hélène Ruiz-Fabri focuses specifically on imperial-
and a volume on the experience of the new generation of
international lawyers takes up postcolonial themes.
In her recent
history of international law’s liberal, welfarist ambitions, Jouan-
net also points to the self-evidence with which European writers
treated the colonization of overseas territories. In Vattel’s almost
900-page treatise, for example, only 5 pages were directed to the
matter. »Europe«, she writes, »is above all interested in itself«.
This applies today, too. Most French writing on the history of
international legal thought (e. g. Jouannet’s work on Vattel, Simone
Goyard-Fabre’s work on Pufendorf or pacifism, or Marc Bélissa’s
work on the late-18
and early 19
century international law) is
oriented towards classical themes of European political and legal
theory. The role of law in French colonialism (for instance in North
Africa) remains a neglected topic. An exception is the »school of
Rennes« whose most important representative today is Monique
Chemillier-Gendreau and whose
Humanité et souverainetés
cusses the colonial implications not only of Western law but of
Western legal rationality and includes a long section on the his-
tory of Western domination through »juridically organized exclu-
The book asks the question of the conditions of eman-
cipation in the colonial world and highlights the importance of
economic autonomy but also of what she calls shared values. As
an incident of left »
«, the book celebrates third
world self-determination and seeks to reinterpret legal categories –
especially categories of economic law – in favour of the equitable
raison flou
«) of the dispossessed.
Slim Lahgmani’s recent history of international law covering the
period from Antiquity to the First World War consciously adopts
an anti-imperial voice.
Laghmani juxtaposes the Christian and
Islamic views of the law of nations on just war and weaves his
narrative around the intensification of Western domination. Eu-
rope and Europeans jurists remain in the centre, however, and
European geopolitics rules the world. But Laghmani’s normative
voice does stand out among the histories of international law.
Martti Koskenniemi
D. Gau rier
, Histoire du droit in-
ternational. Auteurs, doctrines et
développement de l’antiquité à
l’aube de la période contempo-
raine, Rennes 2005, 285–311.
64 Le droit international et
l’impérialisme en Europe et en
Amérique, dir. par
E. Jouannet,
H. Ruiz-Fabri
, Paris 2007.
J.-M. Sorel
, Regards d’une géné-
ration de juristes sur le droit in-
ternational, Paris 2008.
E. Jouannet
, Le droit interna-
tional liberal-providence. Une
histoire de droit international,
Brussels 2011, 97, 98.
M. Chemillier-Gendreau
manité et souverainetés. Essai sur
la fonction du droit international,
Paris 1995, 153,
nité et souverainetés (n. 67), espe-
cially 231–277.
S. Laghmani
, Histoire du droit
des gens. Du jus gentium imperial
au jus publicum europaeum, Paris
Whether apologetic or utopian – focused on geopolitics or
legal doctrines and concepts – historiographies of international law
have been as Eurocentric as the world they describe. Among
contemporary historians, there is no real doubt that, as Ian Hunter
has put it:
»… far from being global, the law of nature and nations represented a
Eurocentric normative order, as it had emerged to resolve an historically specific
intra-European cultural and political problem: how to regulate war- and peace-
making once the fracturing of Christianity – including its Thomistic metaphys-
ics – and the emergence of territorial states had put an end to any lingering
respublica Christiana
Here the writers and the doctrines are as much part of a
»Eurocentric normative order« as the statesmen, diplomats and
soldiers and the whole apparatus of ideas and power (and ideas/
power) that sustains the political world. But from the realization
that the histories of international law are Eurocentric, no direction
is received as to how to deal with this state of affairs. Even radical
Marxian or
voices critiquing the absence of a non-
European perspective have tended to employ European concepts
Alexandrowicz, R. P. Anand and T.O. Elias, for example, sought to
correct the bias in the field by examining legal practices among
Asian rulers and treaty relations between African communities even
before the entry of the Europeans in those territories.
But as
Onuma has pointed out, to the extent that they have been written in
the vein of »they, too, had an international law«, they ended up
once again projecting European categories as universal.
To argue
that there was natural law in India, too, or diplomatic immunities in
the Chinese realm, may – depending on the way the argument is laid
out – finally turn out to support the universal nature of European
categories or even its notorious standard of »civilization«, espe-
cially if the argument is supplemented by the claim that the Euro-
peans themselves had failed to respect it – for instance that when
accepting large Hinterland claims in Africa, Europeans failed to live
up to the criteria of effective occupation. The claim of hypocrisy
here serves to reinforce the power of a notion of European origin.
A subsequent generation of postcolonial critics have attacked
the conceptual Eurocentrism embedded in such arguments. Anghie
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
I. Hunter
, »A Jus gentium for
unpublished paper (2011). See al-
I. Hunter
Regional Metaphysics. On the
Critical History of the Law of
Nature and Nations, in:
S. Dor-
I. Hunter
, Law and Politics
in British Colonial Thought:
Transpositions of Empire, Basing-
stoke 2010, 13– 20.
71 See
duction (n. 48);
R. P. Anand
Studies in International law His-
tory: An Asian Perspective, Leiden
, Maritime Practice in
South-East Asia until 1600 and
Modern law of the Sea, in:
R. P.
, International Law and the
Developing Countries, Dordrecht
1987, 53–71;
, Development
of Modern International Law and
India, Baden-Baden 2005;
T. O.
, Africa and the Develop-
ment of International Law, Leiden
, A Transcivilizational
Perspective (n. 47) 182;
When was the Law of the Inter-
national Society Born?, in: JHIL 2
(2000) 61.
and a group of scholars around him have argued that international
law has from the outset operated as an instrument of European
expansion. For these critics, international law is imperialist all the
way down; it is »fundamentally animated by the civilizing mission
that is an inherent aspect of imperial expansion which, from time
immemorial, has presented itself as improving the lives of con-
quered peoples«.
If that is so, then
use of its categories –
even a critical use – will be Eurocentric and there is no reason for
pride if past indigenous institutions have resembled European
ones. Those are corrupt institutions, instruments of domination
and illegitimate control. Instead, what one needed to do is to attack
the concepts and practices at their root, and to show their nature or
historical (and present) uses as instruments of colonial oppression.
This would mean not to see the »rule of law« as an antidote to war
and oppression but an
incident of them
, for example by following
Marx and Miéville, and seeing in international law’s formal equal-
ity the expression and ideological legitimation of a system of cap-
italist relationships that is structurally prevented from ever being a
force for progressive change.
But what is the nature of the universality that is being invoked
as a basis for this critique of European colonization? Is it the case,
as argued by Hunter recently, that Eurocentrism enters in from the
back door, by offering an apparently universal and timeless norm
for the postcolonial critics themselves?
This is a large question
whose treatment would require a critical assessment of the nature
and role of the debates on universalism vs. particularism in con-
temporary Western academy that is impossible here.
But I think
the postcolonial critique ought not to be measured as part of an
abstract philosophical or political theory debate at all. For it, the
latter would seem to be »part of the problem«, namely limited to
reiterations of the Western philosophical canon that end up in
familiar dead-ends and finally in a dubious moral scepticism. What
the critic seeks to articulate is the experience of a colonized people
in the vocabulary of some power that illuminates that experience
regardless of what epistemological commitments that vocabulary
might seem to entail if viewed by Western standards.
The critic, it
seems to me, adopts the voice of European political theory / law,
using it for effect while also turning it against itself. It is – or at least
this is how I read it – occupying the famous Marxist thesis where
the »validity« of a position lies not in whether it is »coherent« but
Martti Koskenniemi
A. Anghie
, On Critique and the
Other, in:
A. Orford
tional Law and its Others, Cam-
bridge 2008, 394.
, Between Equal Rights
(n. 46) 98, 84–101 and Chapter 5
and 6. For the argument in a con-
temporary context, see
B. S. Ch imni
, International Insti-
tutions Today: An Imperial Global
State in the Making, in: EJIL 15
(2004) 1–37.
, Global Justice (n. 71)
76 I have dealt with the matter in my
International Law in Europe: Be-
tween Tradition and Renewal, in:
EJIL 16 (2005) 113–124.
whether it contributes to liberation. The important point in under-
sophical debate over the issue of universalism vs. relativism, but
that it is instead making a polemical point about the »colonial
origins of international law«. It seems clear to me that Anghie and
others would have no hesitation to instrumentalise international
law if only that might seem strategically useful – and there are
moments, they would concede, when that has been the case.
political judgment (as in contextual history), what would seem
important is not so much the coherence of what is being said than
is carried out by what is being said.
The difficult step to take after the postcolonial critique has
done its work is what to do next. Clearly, it is necessary to begin to
examine autochthonous legal vocabularies and dispute-resolution
techniques. There has been increasing interest in the rules govern-
ing inter-community relations in the Islamic world and in the
Chinese especially in the pages of
Journal of the History of Inter-
national Law
The objective cannot be providing a »full picture«
of the past, however. Most actors, contexts and events have been
irredeemably lost and remaining fragments allow generalization
only with the greatest difficulty. The dangers of anachronism and
conceptual imperialism are constantly present. As Steiger asks
laconically, how much common ground is there really with what
we know as »international law« and a document from the past in
What is
the definition of »law« employed in such discussions? Do these
histories open up a perspective for a global law of humankind –
or do they rather point to the irreducible heterogeneity of the
human experience? Onuma is right when he suggests that it is in
the nature of something like a »civilization« to produce a universal
view of everything. Awareness of what I have elsewhere addressed
as a combination of solipsism and imperialism is quite important in
understanding the way knowledges operate to create communities
of power claiming a universal (objective, scientific) view of the
world. This applies to knowledges labelling themselves »compara-
tive« or »transcivilizational«, too, of course. There is no meta-level
that would not be part of some universalization project and free
from the tendency of producing yet another set of asymmetrical
counterconceptions on the heels of Greek / barbarian, Christian/
heathen or human/non-human that tend to prepare the way for
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
77 See
B. Rajagopal
, International
Law from Below. Development,
Social Movements and Third
World Resistance, Cambridge
78 Out of burgeoning literature, see
e. g.
A. Afsah
versalities in International law.
Islam’s Struggle with Modernity,
in: JHIL 10 (2008) 259–320.
H. Steiger
tional law of Christianity to the
International law of World Citi-
zen, in: JHIL 3 (2001) 181.
aggression on their underprivileged part.
This is not to oppose
the writing of non-European histories, merely to guard against
excessive ambition. Histories of non-European worlds are needed
to illuminate the diversity of human experience and to create
critical distance towards the intuitive naturalness of stories we
have learned. So far, the attention of postcolonial critics has been
perhaps more on the critique of European practices than on
examining alternative institutions or vocabularies, with the ex-
ception of Islamic warfare or the Chinese tribute system. In writing
these histories, both in the vein of critique and construction, one
cannot, however, be ignorant of the fact that much of the ground
is delineated by European concepts and techniques, periodizations
and standards. One cannot write by stepping outside the profes-
sional vocabulary in which these stories are told and learned – but
it is not impossible to put those stories into new uses to demon-
strate their fluidity and incoherence and to destabilize the political
and teleological normativities that go with them. Let me end this
rapid overview with a sketch of four directions to deal with Euro-
centrism in the history of international law.
A first direction was inaugurated by Anghie himself. This
consists of the careful demonstration of the colonial origins of an
international legal rule or institution. This could be, for example, a
discussion of the way the laws of war always allowed brutal forms
of colonial warfare that would have been prohibited in European
wars, because »[t]ribal warriors are … either too cruel or too
imbecile or both to be able to respect the laws of war«.
Here as
elsewhere the flexibility of »civilization« allowed exclusion or
inclusion, as seemed called for.
Much of the work on the history
of the law of development has been inspired by the objective to
show how it has imposed Eurocentric ideas about modernity and
technical standards of »rule of law« and enforcement of contract
so as to maintain a situation of social and economic inequality.
The »inner logic of economic growth and technological advance«
according to Beard, turned a large part of the world into an
»underdeveloped« terrain whose populations were to be rapidly
»incorporated« by enacting law for the protection of foreign in-
In a similar vein, Anne Orford has discussed human-
itarian intervention and the »responsibility to protect« in view of
classical political theory that creates a nexus between protection
and obedience. This, she argues, informed the theory of interna-
Martti Koskenniemi
80 See
R. Koselleck
Political Semantics of Asymmetric
Counterconceptions, in: Futures
Past. On the Semantics of Histor-
ical Time, New York 2004, 155–
F. Mé g r e t
, From ›Savages‹ to
›Unlawful Combatants‹: a Post-
colonial Look at International
Humanitarian Law’s ›Other‹, in:
, International Law and
Its Others (n. 73) 293.
Kosk ennie mi
, Gentle Civilizer
(n. 2) 127–132.
J. Beard
, The Political Economy
of Desire. International Law, De-
velopment and the Nation State,
London 2007, 159–160, 168–
169. See further,
S. Pahuja
colonizing International Law. De-
velopment, Economic Growth and
the Politics of Universality, Cam-
bridge 2011.
tional executive authority by Dag Hammarskjöld in the 1950s and
now remains the best frame for understanding the asymmetries of
recent UN operations in the Third World.
These studies have
highlighted the way colonial domination may operate in the sha-
dow of »internationalization« and through the instrumentality of
international organizations – something discussed also in the re-
cent work by Mark Mazower.
Dissecting the
Nationality Decrees
case (1923), Nathaniel Berman has produced a nuanced reading of
how colonial agendas may be pushed alternatively by advocating a
wide jurisdiction for international bodies or by opting for a more
closely guarded domestic jurisdiction, thus pointing to the political
ambivalence of the international/national divide at the heart of the
discipline: both sides may have »imperial« consequences.
Another way of dealing with Eurocentrism is by focusing on
the encounter between Europe and the new world as an important,
even foundational moment to the discipline itself. This could take
place by laying out the rules and the practices and by recounting the
facts – the making of the first treaties, for example, building of the
settlements or entrepôts, the endless warfare with the »natives«,
efforts at evangelization and so on. Even as it seems unbelievable,
no general works on the international law aspects of the colonial
encounter exist beyond the above-mentioned Fisch book. A favour-
ite topic remains discussing the Spanish theologians’ positions in
respect of the conquest and settlement of Indian territory.
there is today growing literature on the legal aspects of the creation
of British colonial system and especially of the varying ways in
which the relations between the settlers and the indigenous pop-
ulation were conceived.
A thorough recent review of Anglo-
French relations in North America and Canada adds to existing
work by pointing out how the native communities were originally
treated as independent nations although under many treaty-based
restrictions on their liberty of action.
For the legal aspects of the
encounter, the best, somewhat under-appreciated introductory
work is that by L. C. Green and Olive P. Dickason.
Studies under
this theme often focus on the way international law was used to
treat the »barbarians« or »die Wilden«.
venerated fashion of the
Leyenda negra
to shock the reader into an
anticolonial consciousness, but equally well simply to distinguish
between different moments and locations of the colonial encounter
and to bring out the varyingly instrumental nature of the law that
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
84 For a wonderful reading of ex-
pansion of international executive
authority in this direction, see
A. Orford
, International Au-
thority and the Responsibility to
Protect, Cambridge 2011.
M. Mazower
, No Enchanted
Palace. The End of Empire and the
ideological Origins of the United
Nations, Princeton 2009.
N. Berman
, L’affaire des décrets
de nationalité, in: Passions et am-
bivalences. Le colonialisme, le na-
tionalisme et le droit international,
Paris 2008, 279–316.
87 Regarding the Spanish empire, the
works by Luciano Pereña remain
largely unknown outside Spain.
Though not completely free of
imperial apologetics, they, as well
as the 29 volumes of the Corpus
Hispanorum de Pace (CHP), edit-
ed by Pereña, are an invaluable
(though again, little known)
source of materials. For Pereña’s
own summary, see
L. Pereña
idea de justicia en la conquista de
América, Madrid 1992.
88 The question of legal title and legal
justification is central in e. g.
C. Sylvest
gality‹: International Law and
Imperialism in Late Nineteenth-
Century Britain, in: Review of In-
ternational Studies (2008) 403–
D. Arm itage
cal Origin of the British Empire,
Cambridge 2000;
K. MacMil-
the English New World. The Legal
Foundations of Empire 1576–
1640, Cambridge 2006; and Vic-
torian Visions of Global order.
Empire and International Rela-
tions in Nineteenth-Century Polit-
ical Thought, ed. by
D. Bell
Cambridge 2007. Special atten-
tion to the legal articulation of the
settler-indigenous relationship is
given in
R. A Williams
American Indian in Western Legal
Thought. The Discourses of Con-
quest, Oxford 1990;
P. Mc H u g h
Aboriginal Societies and the Com-
mon law: A History of Sovereign-
ty, Status and Land, Oxford 2004;
S. Banner
, How the Indians Lost
their Land. Law and Power on the
Frontier, Cambridge, MA 2005;
and Law and Politics (n. 75).
M. Morin
, Des nations libres sans
territoire? Les autochtones et la
colonisation de l’Amérique fran-
çaise du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle, in:
JHIL 12 (2010) 1–70.
L. C. Green, O. P. Dickason
of Nations and the New World,
Edmonton 1993.
91 The classic here is
A. Pagden
can Indian and the origins of
comparative anthropology, Cam-
bridge 1983. For international law
aspects, see e. g.
D. Dör r
»Wilden« und das Völkerrecht, in:
Verfassung und Recht in Übersee
24 (1991) 372–392.
tended to follow the convenience of the Europeans. Or they might
focus on the innumerable ways that Europeans failed to under-
stand – often to their own disadvantage – the cultures they came to
contact with.
Yet another theme under this strategy would be to
analyse the shifts between formal and informal relations through
which European domination was created and ensured: it would
seem very important for example to integrate formal annexation of
non-European territories (»colonialism«) with the expansion of
European-origined private law rules over contracts and property
and the use of »cat’s paw« techniques with native allies to carry out
dispossession or establish informal domination.
Eurocentrism might be dealt with also by directing attention to
the hybridization of the legal concepts as they travel from the
colonial metropolis to the colonies and their changing uses in the
hands of the colonized. This approach might, for example, exam-
ine particular colonial actors – jurists, politicians, resistance fight-
ers – using European concepts but turning them to support of a
particular indigenous project or preference. A good example would
be Nathaniel Berman’s discussion of the debates between the
French colonial and anti-colonial intelligentsias during the War
of the Riff (1925), instrumentalised by the charismatic rebel leader
Abd el-Krim for his anti-colonial purposes.
Or it might focus on
Latin American Creole elites’ use of international law in order to
support their local hegemony both vis-à-vis Europeans as well as
the more »backward« inhabitants of those territories.
Or it
might show the ways in which Latin American international law
textbooks have adapted the universal vocabulary of European
writings into a »professional style uniquely Latin American«, thus
supporting not the passive assimilation of the region to Europe,
but its asserted distinctiveness from it.
Such studies complicate
the homogeneous idea of Europeanization by undermining the
view that the surface adoption of a European legal vocabulary
would always or necessarily produce similar consequences, indeed
that it would necessarily operate in the favour of »Europe«. And it
would highlight the heterogeneity of the non-European world and
vest non-European subjects with an agency of their own thus
operating as a counterpoint to the pervasive European habit of
treating the outside world as a homogeneous »Orient« as well as to
the indigenous ideology that views decolonization in terms of a
return to a mythical pre-colonial authenticity.
Martti Koskenniemi
92 See e. g.
T. Ru s k o l a
Not Boston: The Invention of
American Imperial Sovereignty,
in: American Quarterly 57 (2005)
93 See e. g. J. T. Gathii, Imperialism,
Colonialism and International
law, in: Buffalo Law Review 54
(2007) 1013–1066;
M. Kosken-
, International law and Em-
pire: The Real Spanish Contribu-
tion, in: University of Toronto
Law Journal 67 (2011) 1–36.
N. Berman
Orient.‹ Colonized Desire and the
Human Rights, ed. by
K. Knop
Oxford 2004, 195–230.
L. Obregón
, Completing Civili-
zation: Creole Consciousness and
International Law in Nineteenth-
Century Latin America, in: Or-
ford, International law and its
Others (n. 73) 247–264.
A. Becker Lorca
, International
American International Law?
Rise, Fall and Retrieval of a Tra-
dition of Legal Thinking and Po-
litical Imagination, in: Harvard
International Law Journal 47
(2007) 289–290 and generally
283–305. Adopting the narrative
that international law was created
by the encounter with the »Indies«
might even offer Latin American
authors with a privileged discipli-
nary voice, 291.
97 For a theorization and discussion
of »hybridity« in the Egyptian
context, see
A. Shalakany
, San-
huri and the Historical Origins of
Comparative Law in the Arab
World (or How Sometimes Losing
your Asalah can be Good for
You), in: Rethinking the Masters
of Comparative Law, ed. by
A. Riles
, Oxford 2001, 152–188.
A variant of such a »hybrid« view would show the effects of
the colonial encounter on the empire itself. To what extent Euro-
pean laws, or perhaps the identity of »Europe«, are a result of
colonialism? Might it be the case that by being obsessed by its
»other« Europe might end up defining its identity – its »civiliza-
tion«, »modernity« or »development« – by that other, in a subtle
master/slave dialectic? In this vein, Nathaniel Berman has pointed
to »imperial ambivalence« as quite central to the construction of
liberal internationalism, and thus of a certain kind of metropolitan
modernity itself. The oscillation between the condemnation of the
»bad« imperialism by others and the celebration of the good
policies of »trusteeship« or »protection« one is carrying outoneself
appears, for Berman, as a historical constant in the self-constitution
of forms of Western political consciousness.
Yet another, fourth, technique is to exoticize (provincialize)
Europe and European laws. In the
Gentle Civilizer
close »anthropological« attention to the contexts in which inter-
national law emerged as a cultural sensibility among a class of
century European liberal and Protestant professionals.
Instead of depicting it as part of some universal metaphysic I
described international law as a platform or a vocabulary for the
political project of a small group of activist lawyers, hoping to
make it appear as a narrow – indeed »exotic« – aspect of fin de
siècle European culture. Such genealogies may operate to pinpoint
the »particular« that is hidden by the discipline’s universal voice.
This is the point of the recent studies that have interpreted early
modern writers such as Grotius or Locke from the perspective of
their activity as legal counsel for the Dutch East India Company or
investor with the Royal Africa Company.
Showing the close
connection between the doctrines of the freedom of the seas and
Dutch or British maritime and colonial interests in the 17
operates to contextualize the relevant rules and although it does
not in any way »de-legitimize« those rules, it makes visible the
relations of power they entail. The same applies to accounts of the
mandates system in the League of Nations or the idea of interna-
tional executive authority within the UN that read them as
reactions to the collapse of old forms of imperial rule and as efforts
to maintain some way to exercise control on former colonies.
Again, the point is to make that which presents itself as timeless
and universal as contextually bound to particular projects or
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
98 N.
, Les ambivalences
impériales, in: Passions et ambiv-
alences (n. 86) 425–476.
99 For Grotius, see
M. van Itter-
, Profit and Principle. Hugo
Grotius, Natural Rights Theories
and the Rise of Dutch Power in the
East Indies, Leiden 2006. See also
E. Wilson
, Savage Republic. De
Indis of Hugo Grotius, Republi-
canism and Dutch Hegemony
within the Early Modern World-
System, Leiden 2008; for Locke,
B. Arnell
, John Locke and
America. The Defence of English
Colonialism, Oxford 1996.
100 See
, International Au-
thority (n. 84).
interests. Eurocentrism might then be destabilized with the realiza-
tion that »Europe«, too, is just a continent with its particular
interests and neuroses, wisdom and stupidity – rather like realizing
that the choice for a French restaurant is also to opt for ethnic food.
A final point needs to be made. A standard way to deal with
Eurocentrism, has been to ask the question of whether non-Euro-
peans were either »included in« or »excluded from« the system of
international law. The question is based on the (Eurocentric) as-
sumption that being included is good (because international law
is »good«) whereas exclusion needs to be condemned. But this
cannot be right: the key question is not whether somebody is
included or excluded but what »inclusion« and »exclusion« mean.
Among the merits of Anghie’s classic postcolonial analysis of
imperialism and international law is the way inclusion by the
Spanish Dominican theologians of the 16
century (Vitoria in
particular) of the American Indians in the Christian system of
natural law and
jus gentium
is shown to operate as a means to
discipline the Indians and establish authority over them.
seems rather pointless to engage in a controversy about the
morality of Vitoria, the man, and important instead to stress the
ambivalence of his options. Then as now, it all depends. The
meaning and status of an encounter cannot be determined in
abstraction from its meaning to its participants – and these cannot
be known independently of recourse to assumptions about what
they »must have thought« – that is, what seems »right« to
four techniques above try to avoid taking the meaning of any
encounter as a given and look instead for interpretative imagi-
nation and the agency of all concerned. »Europeanization« is a
complex phenomenon that may serve different agendas at different
moments. It remains important for post-Eurocentric research in
the history of international law that the mere employment of a
particular vocabulary (of »intervention«, »natural law«, »positiv-
ism«, »Christianity«, or »jihad«) does not alone tell us how we
should assess the relations of power addressed by it. Different
actors will use it for different purposes and everything will depend
on the context (the definition of which may, again, be a subject of
dispute). For example, the application of formal sovereignty and
abolish factual inequality in the world, but it may have made that
inequality slightly more invisible and thus slightly less politically
Martti Koskenniemi
A. Anghie
, Imperialism, Sover-
eignty and the Making of Inter-
national Law, Cambridge 2004.
vulnerable. But what it has done is a matter of research and not
the application of dogma.
And what should be expected of following such avenues? They
do not lead to a fully objective, true account of the past »wie es
eigentlich gewesen [sei]«. There is no point from which to view
history that would not be a particular standpoint. Instead, the
above discussion has tried to point to the power and weakness of
reigning narratives about international law’s past and to encourage
adding perspectives to provide a more complex and more credible
assessment. Narrative vocabularies are, to use Paul de Man’s
familiar image, mechanisms of blindness and insight. A shift of
vocabulary enables us to see things that were previously hidden but
they also inevitably throw something in the dark. The point is not
to write »global history« in which everything is visible – an
impossible undertaking – but to diminish the power of blindness,
not for antiquarian interest in detail but so as to see more clearly
into the future.
Martti Koskenniemi
Histories of International law: Dealing with Eurocentrism
... But this cannot be right: the key question is not whether somebody is included or excluded but what 'inclusion' and 'exclusion' mean. 203 Eurocentrism is an approach that puts Europe at the centre of all knowledge by marginalizing other perspectives due to their immaturity and/or inferiority. This view assigns 'truth only to the Western way of knowledge production', 204 thus negating the knowledge produced outside the borders of the West. ...
Full-text available
Global regulatory competition is a recent phenomenon that confronts us in various different fields, ranging from food and chemical safety to climate change, and animal welfare to environmental law. The digital economy is not immune to this trend, and it seems highly unlikely that this will soon come to an end when we consider the radical differences between the European Union and the United States with respect to the importance they assign to the right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech. Nevertheless, despite their differences in content, it can be contended that they both tend to disregard the interest of others even though they have enough resources at their disposal to take them seriously. This becomes visible when the recent case law of the CJEU and the recent regulations such as the GDPR and the US CLOUD Act are taken into account. Their similar attitude to regulating for the globe raises the question of whether we are confronted with a new type of Eurocentrism, which is more contracted and introverted than the previous expansionist version. The article argues that unilateralism should be a selfless one and that it should necessarily consider outsiders if it is to acquire legitimacy.
... This cultural relativist project is manifest with "mainstream" historical analysis on Ottoman civilization reifying a linear conception of time observing that history took 55 See Frank (1998); ; Orford (2012); Koskenniemi (2012Koskenniemi ( , 2017 Mamdani (2020). In 1820, the British government signed a series of treaties with Arab tribal societies in Osmanli-Arabiapresently known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) such as the General Maritime Treaty of 1820 followed by the Perpetual Maritime Truce of 1853. ...
Full-text available
The (secular-humanist) philosophical theology governing (positivist) disciplines such as International Law and International Relations precludes a priori any communicative examination of how the exclusion of Arab-Ottoman jurisprudence is necessary for the ontological coherence of jurisprudent concepts such as society and sovereignty, together with teleological narratives constellating the “Age of Reason” such as modernity and civilization. The exercise of sovereignty by the British Crown—in 19th and 20th century Arabia—consisted of (positivist) legal doctrines comprising “scientific processes” denying Ottoman legal sovereignty, thereby proceeding to “order” societies situated in Dar al-Islam and “detach” Ottoman-Arab subjects from their Ummah. This “rational exercise” of power by the British Crown—mythologizing an unbridgeable epistemological gap between a Latin-European subject as civic and an objectified Ottoman-Arab as despotic—legalized (regulatory) measures referencing ethno/sect-centric paradigms which not only “deported” Ottoman-Arab ijtihad (Eng. legal reasoning and exegetic hermeneutics) from the realm of “international law”, but also rationalized geographic demarcations and demographic alterations across Ottoman-Arab vilayets. Both inter-related disciplines, therefore, affirm an “exclusionary self-image” when dealing with “foreign epistemologies” by transforming “cultural difference” into “legal difference”, thus suing that it is in the protection of jus gentium that “recognized sovereigns” exercise redeeming measures on “Turks”, “Moors”, or “Arabs”. It is precisely the knowledge lost ensuing from such irreflexive “positivist image” that this legal-historical research seeks to deconstruct by moving beyond a myopic analysis claiming Ottoman-Arab ‘Umran (Eng. civilization) as homme malade (i.e., sick man); or that the Caliphate attempted but failed to become reasonable during the 18th and 19th century because it adhered to Arab-Islamic philosophical theology. Therefore, this research commits to deconstructing “mainstream” Ottoman historiography claiming that tanzimat (Eng. reorganization) and tahdith (Eng. modernization) were simply “degenerative periods” affirming the temporal “backwardness” of Ottoman civilization and/or the innate incapacity of its epistemology in furnishing a (modern) civil society *This paper was published at MDPI-Histories with Professor Iftikhar H. Malik as editor. The difference between the version below and the one at MDPI (found here: is the extensive footnotes in this version.
... The jurisprudence regarding the issue of how sovereignty was acquired over "nonsecular" peoples concerned concepts such as cession, property, occupation, and discovery. With Ottoman-Arabs imagined as "outside" law, this meant that there were no legal limitations on European states ability to commence war and/or be accountable for extrajudicial practices committed during a "mercantile venture" since economic exploitation between a civilized and non-civilized is not based on mutual civilizational growth, but rather a substantial "comparative advantage" [25,46,[67][68][69][70]. For instance, the secularization of capitalism through positivist legal concepts exogenous to Arab-Ottoman philosophical theology legalized British attempts at acquiring the Aden port in the 19th century using "protectorate" as legal concept [28,47,71,72]. ...
Full-text available
The (secular-humanist) philosophical theology governing (positivist) disciplines such as International Law and International Relations precludes a priori any communicative examination of how the exclusion of Arab-Ottoman jurisprudence is necessary for the ontological coherence of jurisprudent concepts such as society and sovereignty, together with teleological narratives constellating the “Age of Reason” such as modernity and civilization. The exercise of sovereignty by the British Crown—in 19th and 20th century Arabia—consisted of (positivist) legal doctrines comprising “scientific processes” denying Ottoman legal sovereignty, thereby proceeding to “order” societies situated in Dar al-Islam and “detach” Ottoman-Arab subjects from their Ummah. This “rational exercise” of power by the British Crown—mythologizing an unbridgeable epistemological gap between a Latin-European subject as civic and an objectified Ottoman-Arab as despotic—legalized (regulatory) measures referencing ethno/sect-centric paradigms which not only “deported” Ottoman-Arab ijtihad (Eng. legal reasoning and exegetic hermeneutics) from the realm of “international law”, but also rationalized geographic demarcations and demographic alterations across Ottoman-Arab vilayets. Both inter-related disciplines, therefore, affirm an “exclusionary self-image” when dealing with “foreign epistemologies” by transforming “cultural difference” into “legal difference”, thus suing that it is in the protection of jus gentium that “recognized sovereigns” exercise redeeming measures on “Turks”, “Moors”, or “Arabs”. It is precisely the knowledge lost ensuing from such irreflexive “positivist image” that this legal-historical research seeks to deconstruct by moving beyond a myopic analysis claiming Ottoman-Arab ‘Umran (Eng. civilization) as homme malade (i.e., sick man); or that the Caliphate attempted but failed to become reasonable during the 18th and 19th century because it adhered to Arab-Islamic philosophical theology. Therefore, this research commits to deconstructing “mainstream” Ottoman historiography claiming that tanzimat (Eng. reorganization) and tahdith (Eng. modernization) were simply “degenerative periods” affirming the temporal “backwardness” of Ottoman civilization and/or the innate incapacity of its epistemology in furnishing a (modern) civil society
... Among all political commitments informing TWAIL as an intellectual and political movement, being anachronic when reading-to-deconstruct legal-history is perhaps the most important commitment to the whole project upholding TWAIL as a deconstructive, but also reconstructive, approach to International Law. The reason is quite simple; positivist jurists and mainstream legal contextualist have adhered to the temporal idea that the past has no bearing on the present and that the past is not an important causal factor in explaining current injustices (Orford 2012(Orford , 2013Koskenniemi 2011Koskenniemi , 2012Koskenniemi , 2013. This split in time limits scholarship seeking to highlight a continuum in jus gentium (re)formulating legal doctrines that sanction sovereign-willed practices of domination and exploitation whether during the Age of Discovery including the Reconquista and Inquisition, or more recently, the war on Arabs informing a "War on Terror" and an "Islamist Winter" in the 21st century. ...
Full-text available
The following legal-historical research is critical of “Islamist” narratives and their desacralized reverberations claiming that Arab-Muslim receptivity to terror is axiomatic to “cultural experiences” figuring subjects conforming to Arab-Islamic philosophical theology. The critique is founded on deconstructing—while adopting a Third World Approach to International Law (TWAIL)—the (im)moral consequences resulting from such rhetoric interpreting the Arab uprising of 2011 from the early days as certainly metamorphosing into an “Islamist Winter”. This secular-humanist hypostasis reminded critics that International Law and International Relations continues to assert that Latin-European philosophical theology furnishes the exclusive temporal coordinates required to attain “modernity” as telos of history and “civil society” as ethos of governance. In addition, the research highlights that such culturalist assertation—separating between law and morality—tolerates secular logic decriminalizing acts patently violating International Law since essentializing Arab-Muslims as temporally positioned “outside law” provides liberal-secular modernity ontological security. Put differently, “culture talk” affirms that since a secular-humanist imaginary of historical evolution stipulates that it is “inevitable” and “natural” that any “non-secular” Arab protests will unavoidably lead to lawlessness, it therefore becomes imperative to suspiciously approach the “Islamist” narrative of 2011 thus deconstructing the formulation of juridical doctrines (i.e., Bethlehem Legal Principles) decriminalizing acts arising from a principle of pre-emption “moralizing” demographic and geographic alterations (i.e., Operation Timber Sycamore) across Arabia. The research concludes that jus gentium continues to be characterized by a temporal inclusive exclusion with its redemptive ramifications—authorized by sovereign power—catalyzing “epistemic violence” resulting in en-masse exodus and slayed bodies across Arabia. -----This article belongs to a special issue entitled "Critical Perspectives on Legislative and Policy Approaches to Counter-Extremism and Counter-Terror" with Prof. Chris Allen as academic editor------
Is peacekeeping intervention? This is the central theme which runs throughout this thesis. Since its conception in the mid-1950s, peacekeeping has significantly evolved from traditional, passive, monitoring and observing operations to robust, multi-dimensional stabilisation operations. This raises questions as to whether this is simply a natural evolution of peacekeeping or whether it marks an expansion of the concept of peacekeeping beyond its boundaries, pushing it into the realm of peace enforcement or intervention. Put simply, has peacekeeping evolved too far? Focusing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), this thesis seeks to understand the relationship between United Nations peacekeeping and the principle of non-intervention. It therefore explores the boundaries between the two, by examining peacekeeping’s legal and normative frameworks, questioning whether, at times, peacekeeping becomes a form of intervention. Uniquely applying a Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) lens, it provides new insights into intervention and peacekeeping, contributing to recent trends that seek to reimagine or reinvigorate UN peacekeeping.
Public debates in the language of international law have occurred across the 20th and 21st centuries and have produced a popular form of international law that matters for international practice. This book analyses the people who used international law and how they used it in debates over Australia's participation in the 2003 Iraq War, the Vietnam War and the First World War. It examines texts such as newspapers, parliamentary debates, public protests and other expressions of public opinion. It argues that these interventions produced a form of international law that shares a vocabulary and grammar with the expert forms of that language and distinct competences in order to be persuasive. This longer history also illustrates a move from the use of international legal language as part of collective justifications to the use of international law as an autonomous justification for state action.
The Spanish Scholastics of the sixteenth century are generally known as the precursors of Hugo Grotius in the application of natural law and the law of nations (ius gentium) to the political relations of early modern states. Their writings on the American Indians have been read as especially significant for the formation of the humanist–colonialist legacy of (European) international law. I have no quarrel with these views. This essay will, however, claim that the principal legacy of the Salamanca scholars lay in their development of a vocabulary of private rights (of dominium) that enabled the universal ordering of international relations by recourse to private property, contract, and exchange. This vocabulary provided an efficient articulation for Europe's ‘informal empire’ over the rest of the world and is still operative as the legal foundation of global relations of power.
Contemporary studies of international law have revealed the connection between the discipline's civilizing discourse and its parallel expansion. However, they have studied the concept of civilization mainly in relation to the European colonization of Africa, Asia and the Pacific. This chapter hopes to add to the discussion by examining postcolonial Latin America, where ideas of civilization were central to the new nations' emergence as participants in, and contributors to, international law. The word ‘civilization’ only came into use in the mid-eighteenth century and was quickly popularized during the French Revolution. The French term civilisation expressed the idea of progress and the perfectibility of humanity as a universal fact and, with it, the trust that law and institutions would be able to mould the human character. Civilisation was understood as a collective achievement of the human race, while at the same time the plural form – civilizations – signified the existence of various social groups in development, whose unity and perfection were synthesized only in European civilization. The idea of civilization – progress – had Europe as its frame of reference, and barbarism, its opposite, as outside of Europe. By the end of the eighteenth-century, as Norbert Elias describes in a key work on the subject, civilization had become the expression of national self-consciousness, and opened the doors for nineteenth-century European conquest and colonization of other regions – Europe believed itself to have ‘an existing or finished civilization’, a civilization in expansion.
The tragic events of 9/11 have led to a number of challenges to international law and organization. Prominent among these is the Bush Administration pre-emption doctrine, articulated in the US National Security Strategy, that basically proposes that the US can take action, in self-defence, against any ‘emerging threats’. It purports, in effect, to rewrite the laws regulating the use of force: under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, states have an ‘inherent right’ to self-defence, but this is in response to an ‘armed attack’. International lawyers have suggested that an imminent threat of armed attack might suffice to enable a state to respond in self-defence. It would be impractical to require states to experience an actual attack before being able to respond with force. The Bush doctrine, however, clearly goes beyond the situation of an imminent attack, suggesting rather that even an ‘emerging threat’ could justify the use of force in self-defence. A further dimension of the National Security Strategy suggests that the targets of this new doctrine are states that might be characterized as ‘rogue states’ – the most prominent of which are Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The articulation of this strategy has inevitably caused intense controversy because it represents a radical departure from the existing law on the use of force. Scholars have thus focused on questions such as the relationship between pre-emption and the law of the Charter; how this doctrine can be reconciled with the law of the Charter; and whether the law of the Charter should be interpreted to accommodate this departure in order to meet the new challenges confronting the international community as a consequence of terrorism.
This book argues that the colonial confrontation was central to the formation of international law and, in particular, its founding concept, sovereignty. Traditional histories of the discipline present colonialism and non-European peoples as peripheral concerns. By contrast, Anghie argues that international law has always been animated by the ‘civilizing mission’ - the project of governing non-European peoples, and that the economic exploitation and cultural subordination that resulted were constitutively significant for the discipline. In developing these arguments, the book examines different phases of the colonial encounter, ranging from the sixteenth century to the League of Nations period and the current ‘war on terror’. Anghie provides a new approach to the history of international law, illuminating the enduring imperial character of the discipline and its continuing importance for peoples of the Third World. This book will be of interest to students of international law and relations, history, post-colonial studies and development studies.
Also available as an e-book The twenty-first century will witness conflicts which may destabilize the international order. These conflicts are likely to arise between emerging Asian States such as China and India whose material power is growing, and the Western nations who wield significant ideational power. A West-centric international society will change to a multi-polar and multi-civilizational global society. This structural change includes, and further needs, changes of understandings and perceptions of the world, including of international law. The perspectives from which we see, understand, appreciate and assess international law must change. We need to interpret international law not only from a prevalent Statecentric international perspective and West-centric transnational perspective. Onuma argues that we must grasp international law from what he calls a trans-civilizational perspective as well. By adopting such three-layered perspectives, international law is shown to be functioning as a tool of politics yet constrained by cultural and civilizational factors. Such complex subjects as global history of international law, concepts of general and customary international law, and human rights could be appreciated in a more nuanced and subtle manner.
This book describes the encounter between the common law legal system and the tribal peoples of North America and Australasia. It is a history of the role of anglophone law in managing relations between the British settlers and indigenous peoples. That history runs from the plantation of Ireland and settlement of the New World to the end of the 20th century. The book begins by looking at the nature of British imperialism and the position of non-Christian peoples at large in the 17th and 18th centuries. It then focuses on North America and Australasia from their early national periods in the 19th century to the modern era. The historical basis of relations is described through the key, enduring, but constantly shifting questions of sovereignty, status and, more latterly, self-determination. Throughout the history of engagement with common law legalism, questions surrounding the settler-state's recognition - or otherwise - of the integrity of the tribe have recurred. These issues were addressed in many and varied imperial and colonial contexts, but all jurisdictions have shared remarkable historical parallels which have been accentuated by their common legal heritage. The same questioning continues today in the renewed and controversial claims of the tribal societies to a distinct constitutional position and associated rights of self-determination. The author examines the political resurgence of aboriginal peoples in the last quarter of the 20th century. A period of 'rights-recognition' was transformed into a second-generation jurisprudence of rights-management and rights-integration. From the 1990s onwards, aboriginal affairs have been driven by an increasingly rampant legalism.