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History of International Law

Head of Section:

Anne Peters

Journal of the History of International Law

See also the Heisenberg Project “Grotius Census Bibliography” (Mark Somos)

Co-Editor of the following series:

Studies in the History of International Law (Brill) since 2016.

Studien zur Geschichte des Völkerrechts (Nomos) since 2015.

About the Project:

Studying the history of international law can help better to understand the character of that particular legal order, its promise and its limits. We seem to live right now in a period of fundamental change of international relations, a process instigated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc of states, and the end of the Cold War. If the history of international law since the sixteenth century has been characterised by a global expansion of Western ideas, and with it of Western domination, many signs today suggest that this history is drawing to a close. To know, in this situation, a bit of the law of nations of the past can help to see the larger picture, and incite informed curiosity about how the history of international law will continue.

 

 


Politics and the Histories of International Law

Almost all scholarship on international law has political implications. Research on the history of international law is specifically ‘risk-prone’. And because the interpretation of historical events potentially has the power to shape international relations, the fight over master narratives is especially fierce, among governments, in different academic camps, and between governments and academics.

Because erudition is inextricably bound up with our sense of justice, each and every legal scholar walks somewhere in between the unattainable ideal of ‘scholarly neutrality’ on the one side, and partisan politics on the other side. While it may be a matter of personal inclination to err more to the one or the other, the choice cannot deny the responsibility of those investigating the history of international law. The book under preparation brings together contributions by authors from different legal systems and backgrounds addressing a variety of topics against this backdrop.

 

See for the international conference held at MPIL under the auspices of the Journal of the History of International Law on 16th and 17th February 2019.

The Cover Painting

Clio is the muse of history. In the fine arts, she often appears with parchment scroll or book and trumpet. She thus not only represents the craftmanship of the historical discipline but also hints at its political dimensions by spreading the message contained in the books. The painting has further political implications: Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the few accepted female painters in 17th century Baroque in Italy. Her personal life shows how she was subjected to the political convictions of her time. 
Both aspects make a detail of Artemisia Gentileschi’s iconic painting of Clio (1632) a fitting illustration for the book.

Clio, by Artemisia Gentileschi, oil paint on canvas, dated 1632, property of Fondazione Pisa, displayed at Palazzo Blu, Pisa, Italy.

Publications

  • Raphael Schäfer, Anne Peters (eds.): Politics and the Histories of International Law. Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2021, forthcoming.
  • Bardo Fassbender, Anne Peters (eds.): Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012, 1228 p. paperback edition: July 2014
  • "The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law" named as one of the "must reads" on international law of the last decade in Opinio Juris, 15 January 2015. 

    ASIL Book Award 2014: Certificate of Merit in a Specialized Area of International Law.