ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

zondag 19 februari 2017

BOOK AND PROJECT WEBSITE: Global History of International Ideas - Histoire globale des idées internationales


Prof. dr. Emmanuelle Tourme-Jouannet (Sciences Po Law School), dr. Dominique Gaurier (Université de Nantes, emeritus) and Prof. dr. Alix Toublanc (Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne) launched the website of the bilingual project Global History of Public International Ideas/Histoire globale des idées internationalistes.

Project description (in English):
We have long been convinced that it is both necessary and useful to assemble a new collection of texts relating to the field of public international law. Such a collection would go further than previous compilations, such as the one assembled in 1927 by Louis Le Fur and Georges Chklaver, or Pierre-Marie Dupuy and Yann Kerbrat’s more recent collection which essentially focusses on post-World War II positive international law.
Our text collection will be different. It will look at international law from a global perspective, leaving behind the Eurocentric perspective that Western internationalists have imposed upon the rest of the world, as part of what Jack Goody famouly coined as The Theft of History (CUP, 2006). Our goal will be to provide our readers with the tools to develop a global history of international law. Being more global and more open to influences from all over the world, this history of international law will draw non-European ideas, both ancient and new. Thus, it will allow for the kind of comparisons, connexions, and oppositions which have always played a central part in the global history of international ideas – a history which cannot be written any longer by resorting only to Western categories and concepts.
Together, the selected texts will form a global panorama of internationalist ideas. They will be part of an evolving project which will rely upon a global network of co-ordinators. These co-ordinators will gradually assemble the texts that will complement our first, then our second, collection.
Rather than aiming at being exhaustive – a thing of the impossible in our field – the panorama we have in mind will be a simple one. Inevitably, some of the basic choices we made at the outset might appear arbitrary, such as using a lineary time-frame typical of Western cultures – although we might eventually be able to integrate other approaches. We proceeded by collecting texts that seemed particularly relevant to us. Other texts, which we were not able to include, are just as relevant. However, all three of us being French, we necessarily only have limited access to non-European sources. This is why we intend to rely heavily on all members of our network to enrich our collection in the future.We prefer using the term ‘internationalist ideas’, rather than ‘great authors in the field of international law’, for two reasons. Firstly, because the history of internationalist thought goes back to internationalist ideas that were not produced by European ‘internationalists’ in the current sense of the word, but by politicians, philosophers, theologians, thinkers discussing war and peace, commerce and currency, and many other things common to different peoples.
We feel that acknowledging these early histories and presenting them to the reader is indispensable in order to understand which kind of concerns led to the birth of international law. Secondly, the very idea of ‘great authors’ is problematic and over-simplifying, as it would have led us to make arbitrary choices which, from a scientific perspective, would have been rather questionable. It leaves out the intricacies, nuances, and subtle distinctions made by other texts which, despite being less well-known, are just as relevant than those written by more prominent authors.
At this point, two volumes have already been conceived in this fashion. The first volume, which will be presented hereafter, will present texts ranging from Antiquity to the beginning of the modern period (in the European sense of the word), i.e. the end of the 18th century. This period saw a decisive change in the evolution of internationalist ideas. As a matter of fact, it was at the end of the 18th century that the European inter-state law of nations began spreading to the rest of the world. However, this European law of nations, once imitated, translated, and taught in regions colonized or dominated by European powers, also started opening up to the influences other cultures.
We hope that this first volume of our series will provide large readership with direct access to internationalist ideas. We organized the relevant sources thematically and presented them in their original forms, without any accompanying interpretation. Nothing will ever beat direct access to original texts, although presenting these texts in a translated form (i.e. in French and, eventually, at least also in English and Spanish) might already be considered a form of betrayal. 
Translated by Michel Erpelding
Max Planck Institute Luxembourg
The open access e-book Une histoire globale des idées internationalistes, associated with the project, can be downloaded here.

Full information and the text of the two first online contributions, as well as maps and documents drawn from recent scholarship can be found on the website.

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