ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

maandag 22 april 2019

CONFERENCE REPORT: ESIL IGHIL Pre-Conference Event, Research Forum (Göttingen: University of Göttingen, 3 APR 2019) (by Jan LEMNITZER, IGHIL President)

The ESIL Interest Group History of International Law held its pre-conference workshop on "The Rule of Law and International Law in Historical Perspective" at the University of Goettingen on 3 April 2019.

The presenters moved backwards in chronology, with Denise Wohlwend (University of Fribourg (CH)) exploring the recent past of the ‘rule of law’ concept within the United Nations. The concept was established as an UN priority at the World Summit in 2005 (that famously also birthed the concept of R2P), which led to the founding of the rule of law assistance unit in the Secretariat and a series of debates in the 6th Committee of the General Assembly. Predictably, the fact that there is no agreed definition of what ‘rule of law’ means led to a series of debates within the committee as to what precisely the concept entails. While some states saw it as one of the main principle of political morality, others favoured a more legalistic approach and insisted it was primarily about the foundations of a functioning legal order, such as states following court decisions, the separation of power or adherence to international law. The more detailed the debates got, the more disagreements appeared: should the rule of law be seen as a key tool to establishing stability in transitional justice processes, or does that denigrate the concepts since it should always be seen as a value in itself? Wohlwend ended by suggesting the framework of a ‘contested concept’ to further the debate while acknowledging the obvious disagreements. In a lively and well-informed exchange with the presenter, Hannah Birkenkötter (Humboldt University Berlin) pointed out that a lot of the real action on the rule of law was not in the GA debates, but the annual reports of the General Secretary, and that the secretariat had managed to hide a number of activities under the rule of law label that would otherwise have been controversial among member states. Both agreed that ‘rule of law’ seems to have replaced the earlier ubiquitous use of ‘democracy’, perhaps since it was deemed more appropriate to a post-Iraq War world.

The next presenter, Premislaw Tacik (Jagellionian University, Cracow), explored the ways in which the ‘rule of law’ concept has been employed in the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Given the traditional disputes with Russia, but especially the more recent conflicts with the governments in Poland and Hungary, this is a highly political question. Tacik argued that the Court avoided legal theory on the issue, but often invokes the preamble of the Convention as a ‘guiding principle of interpretation’. In practice, this can mean both the identification of the rule of law as basic equality before the law and the provision of legal protections, but also the endorsement of ‘thick’ interpretations of the concept that see the rule of law as the guarantor of democracy and human rights. In the discussion, session chair and IG convenor Jan Lemnitzer (University of Southern Denmark) noted that the court seemed to sometimes engage in the defence of lofty principles while at other times focused its decisions on seemingly small procedural details. Tacik agreed that we need a conceptual bridge between both levels, since in reality they can not be separated in the court’s struggle with those governments that are determined to disrespect the rule of law.

In the second panel, Ryan Mitchell (Chinese University of Hong Kong) explored the political thinking of Hans Kelsen and pointed out that scholars tend to focus too much on his early writings establishing a vision of the rule of law built around the pacta sunt servanda principle, while ignoring his later works. Here, Kelsen needed to deal with the tension that he supported the Nuremberg trials and the ideas behind them, but that his endorsement of a legal system that is capable of defining a new crime (aggression) and establishing individual guilt of those who had committed it before the binding definition meant a real crisis for his system of legal thought. After initially publishing rather poor arguments such as that those who committed particularly horrific crimes lose the right not to be prosecuted in dubious ways, Kelsen changed his thinking (partly influenced by his controversial positions during the Korean War) and now highlighted the fact that a norm without a sanction is not a norm in a meaningful sense.

Finally, Alan Nissel began by pointing out that the history of arbitration as it currently stands focuses on a small number of prominent cases involving the United States or Britain. He argued that the large number of cases in Latin America in the 19th and early 20th century are particularly revealing since they often involved disputes between Western investors or creditors and local interests. The pattern that emerges upon a closer look is a rule of law mask for capitalist interests that strongly favoured European or American investors while expecting the locals to be pleased that arbitration had begun to replace armed state intervention. These developments are not just of historical interest since the logic employed in these cases became highly influential in the formation of the modern doctrine of state responsibility, a cornerstone of contemporary international law. As Jan Lemnitzer pointed out in his panel summary, this type of research is particularly welcome since it add  to our empirical foundation for two separate developments in our field: a rethinking of the history of arbitration, and a lifting of the boundary between public international law and the history of private international law and investment disputes.

The next meeting of the IG History of International Law will take place just before the Annual conference in Athens in September and look at ‘New Histories of Sovereigns and Sovereignty’ – the call for papers is still open until 30 April!

vrijdag 19 april 2019

JOURNAL: Journal of International Economic Law XXII (2019), No. 1 [Debate Section: History of International Economic Law]

(image source: Oxford Journals)

Beyond History and Boundaries: Rethinking the Past in the Present of International Economic Law (Rafael Lima Sakr, SIEL/JIEL/OUP Essay Prize Winner)

History and boundaries are the foundations of international economic law (IEL) as a professional and intellectual field. History is often told to support a wide variety of present projects, norms, and ideas by appealing to the past. Boundary is a technique frequently used to map and defend an exclusive domain for applying the IEL expertise to a broad range of programmes, rules, and theories. This article first describes how history and boundaries interact to produce a ‘traditional’ view of IEL past and present place in the world economy. This interaction structures how lawyers assert the authority and legitimacy of IEL in global economic governance. It then argues that the commitments of the traditional approach to Anglocentrism and Modernism limit lawyers’ ability to understand and solve the present-day issues, since it produces lessons only in support of the dominant programmes, norms, and ideas under contestation. Consequently, it constrains, instead of empowers, lawyers’ imagination. Building on this critique, the article outlines an alternative approach devised to rethink the IEL field and, more importantly, which past or new projects, norms, and theories do or do not count (or should or should not count) as part of it. It concludes with reflections on how we might go about reimagining IEL in response to the contemporary challenges to global economic governance.

The Historical Lens in International Economic Law (Steve Charnovitz)
In recent years, scholars of international law have reemphasized historical research in new writings. The essay by Rafael Lima Sakr takes note of this scholarly trend in international economic law, and offers some cogent thoughts on the benefits and disadvantages that have eventuated from such use of historical material. Because the scholarship of Steve Charnovitz regarding the field of international economic law serves as a focal point in Sakr's essay, this short article provides me an opportunity to respond. This article explains why my scholarship has deployed a historical lens to analyze public policy challenges and to analyze the international institutions that have been established to help governments and private actors address those challenges. In addition, my article expresses my agreement with Sakr that scholars should be careful to avoid an unduly narrow perspective on what history is relevant for any particular project.
More information with Oxford Journals.

(source: ESCLH Blog)

donderdag 18 april 2019

CALL FOR PAPERS: Law and Boundaries [5th Annual TAU Workshop for Junior Scholars in Law] (Tel Aviv: Buchmann Faculty of Law/Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies, 17-19 NOV 2019); DEADLINE 1 SEP 2019

Call for Papers

The 5th Annual TAU Workshop for Junior Scholars in Law

Law and Boundaries

17-19 November 2019
Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law
Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies
Tel Aviv, Israel

Sponsored by

The Cegla Center for Interdisciplinary Research of the Law
David Berg Foundation Institute for Law and History
The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
The Institute for Law and Philanthropy (ILP)
TraffLab: Labor Perspective to Human Trafficking Research Project (ERC)
Minerva Center for Human Rights
S. Horowitz Institute for Intellectual Property
Taubenschlag Institute of Criminal Law
Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies

Academic Organizers
Noa Kwartaz-Avraham, Yifat Naftali Ben-Zion, Tsviya Shir
PhD Candidates, Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies, Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University

The Tel Aviv University Buchmann Faculty of Law is pleased to invite submissions to its 5th annual workshop for junior scholars in law. The workshop provides junior scholars with the opportunity to present and discuss their work, receive meaningful feedback from faculty members and peers and aims to invigorate the scholars’ active participation in the community of international junior scholars in law.

The interface between law and boundaries is subject to ongoing debate amongst legal scholars. On one hand, the law may be perceived as setting a legal boundary in social life, for instance between normative and criminal behavior; On the other hand, the law may be perceived as an instrument used by different power groups in order to change, preserve or re-affirm the social order. The workshop seeks to offer a scholarly debate on law and boundaries, from various perspectives.
Relevant papers may discuss a variety of legal fields such as private law, criminal law, corporate & finance law, environmental law, international & human rights law, family law, IP, law & technology, etc., as well as theoretical and jurisprudential issues.
For example, papers could discuss:
·     Doctrinal boundaries - How law creates, preserves or undermines boundaries between traditional categories such as private and public, state and market, individual and society, etc.; how law restructures boundaries between such categories in response to accelerated technological progress or economic crisis (e.g., revisiting contemporary IP law, Antitrust law, etc.).
·     Theoretical boundaries - How specific rules or legal concepts provide an ethical border between right or wrong, and what is their impact on society? how boundaries, real or imagined, serve as gatekeepers of social order; how interdisciplinary research methodologies contribute to legal scholarship.
·     Physical boundaries - How law shapes the role of borders, who and what can cross them, under what terms, and at what cost (e.g., regulation of immigration, human trafficking); how does law respond to the powers and vulnerabilities created by traversing physical borders, what protections does it offer, if at all, and to whom; The interaction between the nation state and boundaries.
·     Social boundaries - How law regulates boundaries between different groups of individuals as well as between individual rights and group rights, and how permeable the boundaries are in a multicultural nation state (e.g., championing group rights in order to preserve the group as such, and the possible advantages and/or disadvantages this might have for the individual); how law is affected by historical development, for example in the construction of a new legal order or institution or in changing functions of current ones.
·     Economic boundaries - How economic insights might (or should) affect the law; the relations between law and economic distribution and redistribution; how the law is affected by blurring boundaries between philanthropy, state and market (e.g., through the impact investing practices or the re-setting of legal boundaries for philanthropy within a liberal and just democracy; corporate social responsibility).
We welcome junior scholars (doctoral candidates, postdoctoral researches and recent graduates of doctoral programs) from universities and research institutions throughout the world to submit abstracts engaging with the leading theme of the workshop.

Limited travel grants and accommodation will be available for participants with no institutional funding.

Submissions: Abstracts of up to 400 words of the proposed presentation, CV and your current institutional affiliation(s), should be submitted by email to by May 10th, 2019. Applicants requesting travel grants and/or accommodation should indicate so in their submission, along with the city they expect to depart from and an estimate of the funds requested.

Applicants will be informed of acceptance or rejection by June 2019. Selected scholars must submit their papers of up to 10,000 words in length by September 1st, 2019.

For further inquiries contact us at

(source: ESCLH Blog)

woensdag 17 april 2019

BOOK: Guillaume CALAFAT, Une mer jalousée. Contribution à l'histoire de la souveraineté (Méditerranée, XVIIe siècle) [L'univers historique] (Paris: Seuil, 2019), 456 p. ISBN 9782021379365, € 25

(image source: Seuil)

Book abstract:
Comment disait-on le droit sur les mers à l’époque moderne ? Par quels dispositifs les pouvoirs politiques dotés d’une façade maritime tentaient-ils de faire respecter un pouvoir de « juridiction », entendu comme un « droit de dire le droit », sur un espace liquide particulier ? Ces questions sur la liberté, la communauté et l’empire des mers ont donné lieu à une grande controverse juridique livrée à l’échelle du globe. Une mer jalousée propose d’en faire l’histoire à partir de l’observatoire méditerranéen. De la mer Adriatique aux mers du Levant, du golfe du Lion aux littoraux nord-africains, l’enquête décline à différentes échelles, depuis les bureaux des juristes jusqu’aux ponts des navires, un large éventail de conceptions concurrentes des limites maritimes et des eaux « territoriales ». Ce faisant, l’ouvrage revient, au carrefour de l’histoire, du droit et de la philosophie, sur des notions juridiques cardinales de la pensée politique moderne, telles que la « propriété », l’« occupation », la « possession » et la « souveraineté ». Guillaume Calafat les inscrit dans une généalogie de longue durée embrassant l’histoire antique et médiévale, les textes du droit romain et leurs commentaires médiévaux, les lois byzantines comme la normativité musulmane. Une mer jalousée s’appuie ainsi sur une centaine de textes imprimés à propos de la domination des mers, en les croisant avec des libelles manuscrits, des atlas, des cartes, des traités, des gravures, afin de brosser le portrait d’une mer au statut disputé et incertain.
On the author:
 Guillaume Calafat est maître de conférences à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine). Ses recherches portent sur la Méditerranée de l’époque moderne, et notamment sur les échanges marchands et maritimes entre Europe occidentale et monde ottoman.
More information: Seuil.

(source: ESCLH Blog)

dinsdag 16 april 2019

CALL FOR PAPERS: Montesquieu hors d’Europe. Traductions et usages de L’Esprit des lois (Bordeaux: Université Bordeaux-Montaigne, Spring 2020); DEADLINE 1 JUL 2019

(image source:

Conference summary:
De l’Esprit des lois est un monument qui déroute à double titre ; tout d’abord par son ampleur (plus de mille pages pour quatorze ans de travail), ensuite par sa difficulté de lecture. L’œuvre maitresse de Montesquieu a suscité une grande diversité d’interprétations : salué comme le moment fondateur de la science politique, certains voient en lui l’expression du républicanisme moderne alors que d’autres préfèrent le ranger dans le crédo libéral. La multiplicité des thèmes abordés, dans un désordre apparent, ne manque pas de troubler : dans sa recherche des causes physiques et morales des institutions, Montesquieu propose tour à tour une théorie sur la loi, sur les types de gouvernements ; une réflexion sur la liberté politique ainsi qu’une théorie des climats et de « l'esprit général ». Cet ouvrage fut aussi celui par lequel Montesquieu donna matière au concept de despotisme qu’il inventa, rassemblant sous l’adjectif « oriental » associé à ce régime politique, entre autres, les empires Ottoman et Perse, la Chine et le Japon. Comment ce monument des Lumières a-t-il été lu hors d’Europe, notamment dans les pays que Montesquieu rangea dans la catégorie du despotisme ? Quels défis représentèrent la traduction de l’œuvre et la compréhension des thèmes abordés ? Quel en fut l’usage dans un contexte d’introduction de la philosophie politique européenne ? Ces questions qui s’imposent très tôt dans le Japon moderne (où L’Esprit des lois est traduit dès 1875), concernent certainement aussi une bonne partie des pays d’Asie ou d’ailleurs. Du moins tels sont les thèmes que nous invitons tous les spécialistes de langues non-européennes à discuter. La réflexion devra s’orienter vers l’analyse de la traduction de tout ou partie des thèmes constitutifs de l’ouvrage, avec le souci de s’inscrire dans la perspective du transfert culturel et de l’histoire intellectuelle.
Proposals can be sent to by 1 July 2019.

(source: ESCLH Blog)

maandag 15 april 2019

BOOK : Rena N. LAUER, Colonial justice and the Jews of Venetian Crete (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). ISBN 9780812250886, £56.00

The University of Pennsylvania Press has published a new book on the usage of the legal system by the Jewish population of 13th century Venetian Crete.


When Venice conquered Crete in the early thirteenth century, a significant population of Jews lived in the capital and main port city of Candia. This community grew, diversified, and flourished both culturally and economically throughout the period of Venetian rule, and although it adhered to traditional Jewish ways of life, the community also readily engaged with the broader population and the island's Venetian colonial government.

In Colonial Justice and the Jews of Venetian Crete, Rena N. Lauer tells the story of this unusual and little-known community through the lens of its flexible use of the legal systems at its disposal. Grounding the book in richly detailed studies of individuals and judicial cases—concerning matters as prosaic as taxation and as dramatic as bigamy and murder—Lauer brings the Jews of Candia vibrantly to life. Despite general rabbinic disapproval of such behavior elsewhere in medieval Europe, Crete's Jews regularly turned not only to their own religious courts but also to the secular Venetian judicial system. There they aired disputes between family members, business partners, spouses, and even the leaders of their community. And with their use of secular justice as both symptom and cause, Lauer contends, Crete's Jews grew more open and flexible, confident in their identity and experiencing little of the anti-Judaism increasingly suffered by their coreligionists in Western Europe.


Rena N. Lauer teaches history and religious studies at Oregon State University.

More information here

(source: ESCLH Blog)

vrijdag 12 april 2019

BOOK: Ignacio DE LA RASILLA Y DEL MORAL & Jorge VIÑUALES (eds.), Experiments in International Adjudication. Historical Accounts (Cambridge: CUP, 2019), XII + 328 p. ISBN 9781108565967, GBP 110

(image source: CUP)

Book abstract:
The history of international adjudication is all too often presented as a triumphalist narrative of normative and institutional progress that casts aside its uncomfortable memories, its darker legacies and its historical failures. In this narrative, the bulk of 'trials' and 'errors' is left in the dark, confined to oblivion or left for erudition to recall as a curiosity. Written by an interdisciplinary group of lawyers, historians and social scientists, this volume relies on the rich and largely unexplored archive of institutional and legal experimentation since the late nineteenth century to shed new light on the history of international adjudication. It combines contextual accounts of failed, or aborted, as well as of 'successful' experiments to clarify our understanding of the past and present of international adjudication.
 Jorge E. Viñuales, Ignacio de la Rasilla, Inge Van Hulle, Jan Lemnitzer, Gerard Conway, Frédéric Mégret, Jean d'Aspremont, Cesare P. R. Romano, Andrei Mamolea, Freya Baetens, Donal Coffey, Angelo Junior Golia, Ludovic Hennebel, Morten Rasmussen.
More information with CUP.

This book is the result of the ESIL IGHIL Pre-Conference Workshop at the ESIL Conference in Oslo in September 2014 (cf. program earlier on this blog).