Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law Logo Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

You are here: Research Interaction at the Institute Discussion and Working Formats Discussion Groups Theory Talks

Theory Talks

Contact: Silvia Steininger, Tom Sparks


Theory Talks provides a forum for research fellows and visiting scholars of the Max Planck Institute to discuss questions relating to legal, political and moral theory.  The seminars normally take place once a month, and will include a short introductory talk (15-30 minutes) followed by a general discussion.  Each seminar will focus on a new publication, a classic text, a current development, or a work in progress by a fellow or visitor.  All are welcome to participate in the discussions.

For previous sessions, please check the archive.


Fellows or visitors wishing to present a piece of work or to suggest a theme for a future edition of Theory Talks are warmly invited to contact .


17 May 2018 - 15.30-17.00

Dr Mark Somos

In Search of (Lost) Usable Legal History


Dr Somos has assembled a bibliography of short extracts as suggested reading for the seminar, divided into four sections.  If you are unable to read all suggested texts, please read at least one item from each section.  If you would like to receive a combined .pdf document containing the extracts, please contact .

  1. Status Quo and Rival proposals for a Future International Legal Historiography
    1. Randall Lesaffer, 'International Law and its History:  the Story of an Unrequited Love' in Craven et al (eds.), Time, History and International Law (Leiden, 2007), 27-41.
    2. Anne Orford, 'International Law and the Limits of History' in Werner et al. (eds), The Law of International Lawyers:  Reading Martti Koskenniemi (Cambridge, 2017), 311-2.
    3. Stefan Collini, 'The Identity of Intellectual History' in Whatmore and Young (eds.), A Companion of Intellectual History (Wiley, 2016), 12.
  2. Useable Legal History:  Praxis, Advocacy, and/or Art
    1. Friedrich Carl von Savigny, System of the Modern Roman Law (1840, En. tr. 1867), I.i-v.
    2. Constantin Fasolt, 'History, Law and Justice:  Empirical Method and Conceptual Confusion in the History of Law' (2015) 5 UC Irvine Law Review 413, 456-462.
    3. Martti Koskenniemi, 'Law, Teleology and International Relations:  an Essay in Counterdisciplinarity' (2011) 26(1) International Relations 3, 19-23.
    4. Anne Peters and Bardo Fassbender, 'Prospects and Limits of a Global History of International Law:  a Brief Rejoinder' (2014) 25(1) The European Journal of International Law 337, 339.
    5. David A. Sklansky, 'What Evidence Scholars can Learn from the Work of Stephen Yeazell:  History, Rulemaking, and the Lawyer's Fundamental Conflict' (2013) 61 UCLA Law Review 152, 154-6.
  3. When Did Legal History Begin?  When Did International Law Begin?
    1. John Selden, 'Notes on Fortescue' in De laudibus legum Angliae... (London 1616), 16-18.
    2. Ian Hunter, 'About the Dialectical Historiography of International Law' (2016) 1(1) Global Intellectual History 1, 1-3.
  4. An Illustration:  Applying Westphalia
    1. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 'The Peace of Westphalia as a Model for Reflection on the Middle East', Osnabrück Peace Forum, 12 July 2016.
    2. Mark Somos, Secularisation and the Leiden Circle (Leiden 2011), 12-14 & 439-445.
    3. Mark Somos, 'Selden's Mare clausum:  the Secularisation of International Law and the Rise of Soft Imperialism' (2012) 14 Journal of the History of International Law 287, 327-330.


Room 014

The discussion will take place in English.

21 June 2018 - 15.30-17.00

Dr Marius Hildebrand

Room 214

19 July 2018 - 15.30-17.00

Justin Krahé and Peter McLaughlin

Room 014

16 August 2018 - 15.30-17.00

Raphael Schäfer

Room 014