ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

woensdag 22 april 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Isabel V. HULL reviews Leonard V. SMITH, Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. (The Greater War, 1912–1923.) New York: Oxford University Press, 2018 (American Historical Review CXXV (2020), No. 2 (Apr), 713-714

(image source: bol.com)

First paragraph:
Leonard V. Smith, an accomplished social historian of World War I, has produced a thoughtful reassessment of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the Great War. It is well researched in both primary and secondary sources, and it pays close attention to recent trends in historiography. It aims to recapture the openness (“then-ness”) of this striking moment in human affairs. Smith is himself open to international relations (IR) theory to shake up the standard historian’s view. Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 provides an accurate overview of the myriad issues facing contemporary statesmen: the collapse of empires, fluid borders, population disorder, colonial redistribution, war debts, reparations, establishing an entirely new international institution (the League of Nations), etc. Among its accomplishments, the book offers a sharp assessment of the role of experts, especially political geographers in postwar boundary drawing, a spirited defense of Fridtjof Nansen and the league, who are too often blamed for severe population transfers, and a shrewd analysis of how racial categorization functioned to compromise between greedy Allied imperial states and the requirement that they administer mandates rather than simply annex former German colonies.
Read more here.