The call for papers has expired.
15th and 16th February 2019, an international conference will be held
at the Max Planck Institute for International Law at Heidelberg under
the auspices of theJournal of the History of International Law.
The aim is to publish papers from the conference (upon peer review) in a
focus issue on ‘Politics and the Histories of International Law’ in the
Theme of the Conference
n’est pas une religion. L’historien n’accepte aucun dogme, ne respecte
aucun interdit, ne connaît pas de tabous. Il peut être dérangeant’
(Liberté pour l’histoire, 2005)
all scholarship on international law and its history has political
implications.Some say thatinternational legal scholarship is inevitably
ideological in nature and that its findings depend on concealed
political preferences. Put differently, legal scholarship could be
nothing more than the pseudo-objective defence of ruling ideologies.
Most famously, Hans Kelsen had denounced a ‘tendency wide-spread among
writers on international law’ to produce ‘political ideology’.
Kelsen sought to escape this by writing books of a ‘purely juristic
character’(Principles of International Law, 2nd ed. 1967, ix). In his foreword to the commentary on the UN Charter of 1950, he stressed that ‘separation of law from politicsin the presentation of national or international problems is possible’ (The Law of the United Nations, 1950, viii).
nowadays doubt that purging international legal scholarship of politics
would work. Martti Koskenniemi in 2004 put this as follows: ‘The choice
is not between law and politics, but between one politics of law, and
another. Everything is at stake, but not for everyone’ (EJIL 16 (2005),
So which factors
‘politicise’ international legal scholarship? The first factor is that
the object under investigation is itself a political matter.
International law has throughout its history been political, because its
content depends on the political power of the parties negotiating the
treaties, and because it transports political values.
themselves cannot completely avoid being more or less political actors,
because their value judgements, which are inescapable, often carry
political implications. However, an important difference between doing
scholarship and doing politics lies in the authors’ main intention: It
is, ideal-typically, not the primary purpose of scholarship to make
politics and unbounded evaluation but to generate knowledge − which
could then be used politically, by the author herself or by others.
Along this line, most scholars of history seek to uncover various
aspects of past events and debates and to contextualise them, thereby
realising a modicum of objectivity and neutrality. Some consciously try
to avoid judgment, while others are more prone to judging deliberately
and to employing historical insights in contemporary political debates.
on the history of international law is not only inherently political
but moreover specifically ‘risk-prone’. Writing on topics such as
genocide, state of exception, failed states, humanitarian intervention,
asymmetrical war, or cyber-attacks is especially liable to being used
and abused by participants in political controversies. In fact, when it
comes to writing history, the fight over master narratives is especially
fierce, among governments, in different academic camps, and between
governments and academics. The notorious example are memory laws which
consecrate specific views on atrocities of the past (especially
genocidal massacres) and which sometimes additionally criminalise the
denial of those atrocities. These attempts to close historical debates
by law has been criticised by historians, most famously in the petition
‘Liberté pour l‘histoire’ by French historians reacting against various
French memory laws.
the interpretations of historical events are almost inescapably
political, and potentially have the power to shape international
relations: ‘On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à
l’invasion des idées’ (Victor Hugo, Histoire d’un crime, 1877/2009,
639). It is against this background that the rights and
responsibilities of those researching on the history of international
law should be seen.
JHIL invites scholars to engage with the questions of the role of
politics and ideology in the historiographies of international law. We
welcome propositions for papers which address methodological questions,
as well as case studies or historiographical analyses that focus on
certain contentious subjects within the field of international law and
The conference will last from Friday morning, 15th February to Saturday
noon (16th February 2019). It will start with an informal get-together
on Thursday evening, 14th February 2019.
Max-Planck-Institute for Comparative Public Law and Public International
Law, Im Neuenheimer Feld 535, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
- Scholars who would like to present a paper at the conference are invited to submit a title and abstract (250─500 words) to the managing editor of the JHIL (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 1st June 2018.
Abstracts will be assessed by the editors of the JHIL with involvement
of the journal’s Academic Advisory Board. A decision on acceptance of
the abstract will be communicated by 1st July 2018.
- Authors of
accepted abstracts will be requested to submit their draft papers by 1st
February 2019. The draft will be circulated among participants (authors
and admitted engaged listeners).
- Final versions of the
papers will be due by 30th March 2019. Papers will then be submitted to
the normal review procedure of the JHIL:
- See “Instructions for
authors at http://www.mpil.de/en/pub/publications/periodic-publications/jhil.cfm and
Max Planck Institute will cover the costs of the accommodation of
accepted paper presenters (up to three nights) and will offer a
needs-based subsidy towards travel costs.
- An additional call for engaged listeners will be issued shortly.
- For updated technical information on the conference see http://www.mpil.de/en/pub/publications/periodic-publications/jhil.cfm