Edeagu, Ngozi. Critiquing witness testimonies in African colonial history. Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 2017.

Colonial records provide a rich tapestry of research material for historians inquiring into the imperial past. Nonetheless, as with other written sources, these archival documents are not devoid of controversy as they are subject to power relations and multiple interpretations. This article sets out to articulate some methodological issues associated with the employment of witness testimonies and the commissions of inquiry in colonial West Africa using the 1929 events in colonial southeastern Nigeria as a case study. By examining language, place and people, modern day historians investigating Africa will be more capable of navigating through the nuanced complexities that constitute colonial documents.

Eslava, Luis, Michael Fakhri, and Vasuki Nesiah, eds. Bandung, Global History, and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017

In 1955, a conference was held in Bandung, Indonesia that was attended by representatives from twenty-nine nations. Against the backdrop of crumbling European empires, Asian and African leaders forged new alliances and established anti-imperial principles for a new world order. The conference came to capture popular imaginations across the Global South and, as counterpoint to the dominant world order, it became both an act of collective imagination and a practical political project for decolonization that inspired a range of social movements, diplomatic efforts, institutional experiments and heterodox visions of the history and future of the world. In this book, leading international scholars explore what the spirit of Bandung has meant to people across the world over the past decades and what it means today. It analyzes Bandung’s complicated and pivotal impact on global history, international law and, most of all, justice struggles after the end of formal colonialism.

Sarah C. Dunstan constructs a narrative of black struggles for rights and citizenship that spans most of the twentieth century, encompassing a wide range of people and movements from France and the United States, the French Caribbean and African colonies. She explores how black scholars and activists grappled with the connections between culture, race and citizenship and access to rights, mapping African American and Francophone black intellectual collaborations from the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 to the March on Washington in 1963. Connecting the independent archives of black activist organizations within America and France with those of international institutions such as the League of Nations, the United Nations and the Comintern, Dunstan situates key black intellectuals in a transnational framework. She reveals how questions of race and nation intersected across national and imperial borders and illuminates the ways in which black intellectuals simultaneously constituted and reconfigured notions of Western civilization.

Giovanni Mantilla, Lawmaking Under Pressure: International Humanitarian Law and Internal Armed Conflict. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2020.

In Lawmaking under Pressure, Giovanni Mantilla analyzes the origins and development of the international humanitarian treaty rules that now exist to regulate internal armed conflict. Until well into the twentieth century, states allowed atrocious violence as an acceptable product of internal conflict. Why have states created international laws to control internal armed conflict? Why did states compromise their national security by accepting these international humanitarian constraints? Why did they create these rules at improbable moments, as European empires cracked, freedom fighters emerged, and fears of communist rebellion spread? Mantilla explores the global politics and diplomatic dynamics that led to the creation of such laws in 1949 and in the 1970s.

By the 1949 Diplomatic Conference that revised the Geneva Conventions, most countries supported legislation committing states and rebels to humane principles of wartime behavior and to the avoidance of abhorrent atrocities, including torture and the murder of non-combatants. However, for decades, states had long refused to codify similar regulations concerning violence within their own borders. Diplomatic conferences in Geneva twice channeled humanitarian attitudes alongside Cold War and decolonization politics, even compelling reluctant European empires Britain and France to accept them. Lawmaking under Pressure documents the tense politics behind the making of humanitarian laws that have become touchstones of the contemporary international normative order.

Mantilla not only explains the pressures that resulted in constraints on national sovereignty but also uncovers the fascinating international politics of shame, status, and hypocrisy that helped to produce the humanitarian rules now governing internal conflict.

Doreen Lustig, Veiled Power: International Law and the Private Corporation 1886-1981. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Veiled Power conducts a thorough historical study of the relationship between international law and business corporations. It chronicles the emergence of the contemporary legal architecture for corporations in international law between 1886 and 1981. Doreen Lustig traces the relationship between two legal ‘veils’: the sovereign veil of the state and the corporate veil of the company. The interplay between these two veils constitutes the conceptual framework this book offers for the legal analysis of corporations in international law.

By weaving together five in-depth case studies – Firestone in Liberia, the Industrialist Trials at Nuremberg, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Barcelona Traction and the emergence of the international investment law regime – a variety of contexts are covered, including international criminal law, human rights, natural resources, and the multinational corporation as a subject of regulatory concern. Together, these case studies offer a multifaceted account of the history of corporations in international law over time.

The book seeks to demonstrate the facilitative role of international law in shaping and limiting the scope of responsibility of the private business corporation from the late-nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century. Ultimately, Lustig suggests that, contrary to the prevailing belief that international law failed to adequately regulate private corporations, there is a history of close engagement between the two that allowed corporations to exert influence under a variety of legal regimes while obscuring their agency.

What is the relationship between decolonization and international law? Most historians agree that empires framed their colonial wars as emergencies in order to escape international scrutiny. After 1945, however, those same imperial powers invited the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to intervene in their wars of decolonization while resisting an official state of war. This article seeks to solve this puzzle by drawing attention to the ICRC’s critical part in reshaping the international legal system regarding colonial war in the critical years before the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) and the Bandung Conference (1955). In this formative period, the organization, together with anti-colonial activists, played a transformative role in contesting accepted ideas of global governance and international law while providing a new stage for anti-colonial resistance, with far-reaching consequences, not just for the ICRC’s own institutional future, but also for the legitimization of (post-)colonial sovereignty in the twentieth century.

Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton : A Global History. First ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.

The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, a fulcrum of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners. Sven Beckert makes clear how these forces ushered in the world of modern capitalism, including the vast wealth and disturbing inequalities that are with us today.

In a remarkably brief period, European entrepreneurs and powerful politicians recast the world’s most significant manufacturing industry, combining imperial expansion and slave labor with new machines and wage workers to make and remake global capitalism. The result is a book as unsettling as it is enlightening: a book that brilliantly weaves together the story of cotton with how the present global world came to exist.

Quinn Slobodian, Globalists : The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.

Neoliberals hate the state. Or do they? In the first intellectual history of neoliberal globalism, Quinn Slobodian follows a group of thinkers from the ashes of the Habsburg Empire to the creation of the World Trade Organization to show that neoliberalism emerged less to shrink government and abolish regulations than to redeploy them at a global level.

Slobodian begins in Austria in the 1920s. Empires were dissolving and nationalism, socialism, and democratic self-determination threatened the stability of the global capitalist system. In response, Austrian intellectuals called for a new way of organizing the world. But they and their successors in academia and government, from such famous economists as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises to influential but lesser-known figures such as Wilhelm Röpke and Michael Heilperin, did not propose a regime of laissez-faire. Rather they used states and global institutions—the League of Nations, the European Court of Justice, the World Trade Organization, and international investment law—to insulate the markets against sovereign states, political change, and turbulent democratic demands for greater equality and social justice.

Far from discarding the regulatory state, neoliberals wanted to harness it to their grand project of protecting capitalism on a global scale. It was a project, Slobodian shows, that changed the world, but that was also undermined time and again by the inequality, relentless change, and social injustice that accompanied it.

Ntina Tzouvala, Capitalism As Civilisation. A History of International Law.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Methodologically and theoretically innovative, this monograph draws from Marxism and deconstruction bringing together the textual and the material in our understanding of international law. Approaching ‘civilisa- tion’ as an argumentative pattern related to the distribution of rights and duties amongst different communities, Ntina Tzouvala illustrates both its contradictory nature and its pro-capitalist bias. ‘Civilisation’ is shown to oscillate between two poles. On the one hand, a pervasive ‘logic of improvement’ anchors legal equality to demands that non-Western pol- ities undertake extensive domestic reforms and embrace capitalist mod- ernity. On the other, an insistent ‘logic of biology’ constantly postpones such a prospect based on ideas of immutable difference. By detailing the tension and synergies between these two logics, Tzouvala argues that international law incorporates and attempts to mediate the contradictions of capitalism as a global system of production and exchange that both homogenises and stratifies societies, populations and space.

Tatiana Linkhoeva, Revolution Goes East. Imperial Japan and Soviet Communism, Cornell UP, 2020.

Revolution Goes East is an intellectual history that applies a novel global perspective to the classic story of the rise of communism and the various reactions it provoked in Imperial Japan. Tatiana Linkhoeva demonstrates how contemporary discussions of the Russian Revolution, its containment, and the issue of imperialism played a fundamental role in shaping Japan’s imperial society and state.

In this bold approach, Linkhoeva explores attitudes toward the Soviet Union and the communist movement among the Japanese military and politicians, as well as interwar leftist and rightist intellectuals and activists. Her book draws on extensive research in both published and archival documents, including memoirs, newspaper and journal articles, political pamphlets, and Comintern archives. Revolution Goes East presents us with a compelling argument that the interwar Japanese Left replicated the Orientalist outlook of Marxism-Leninism in its relationship with the rest of Asia, and that this proved to be its undoing. Furthermore, Linkhoeva shows that Japanese imperial anticommunism was based on geopolitical interests for the stability of the empire rather than on fear of communist ideology.

Franziska Seraphim, War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945-2005, Harvard University Press, 2006.

Japan has long wrestled with the memories and legacies of World War II. In the aftermath of defeat, war memory developed as an integral part of particular and divergent approaches to postwar democracy. In the last six decades, the demands placed upon postwar democracy have shifted considerably—from social protest through high economic growth to Japan’s relations in Asia—and the meanings of the war shifted with them.

This book unravels the political dynamics that governed the place of war memory in public life. Far from reconciling with the victims of Japanese imperialism, successive conservative administrations have left the memory of the war to representatives of special interests and citizen movements, all of whom used war memory to further their own interests.

Parvathi Menon, “The Procrustean Bed of Colonial Laws: A Case of the British Empire in India,” in H. Ruiz Fabri (ed.), International Law and Litigation: A Look into Procedure., H. (ed.). Germany: Nomos, Vol. 15. p. 183-204

The Anglicization of law in the British Empire was primarily based on the perceived primitiveness of the native laws and the superiority of the modern British legal system. Maintaining the South Asian ‘identity’ of the law, while distancing the law from the community it belonged to, the British used procedural mechanisms to tilt the jurisprudence towards the Anglo direction. Procedural justice is often considered as the last bastion of a means to just and equitable practices; this paper hopes to expose the dark sides of the procedural mechanisms that succeeded in helping the British gain control over the Indian polity, through a contrast of the pre-colonial legal systems of India against the British legal interventions.

Historical accounts of post-colonial legal systems suffer from, what Dipesh Chakrabaorty calls, the “first in Europe, then elsewhere” structure of historical time , ignoring in entirety the pre-colonial identity of the subaltern. Such historicist arguments lead to a characterization that Indians were not yet civilized to govern themselves. To overcome these characterizations, the possibilities are twofold: first, to demonstrate how the natives were not in fact uncivilized as the colonial powers claimed, thus delegitimizing the colonial attempts to civilize; second, to demonstrate how the attempts to civilize were in fact a means to subordinate the natives, rendering inconclusive the narrative that portrays a “practical European” nature against a “mythical-religious Orient”. The exploration of these two possibilities in the context of the British efforts to anglicize the laws form the foundation upon which this chapter will discuss the judicial mechanisms implemented in India.

Carl Landauer, Regionalism, Geography, and the International Legal Imagination, Chicago Journal of International Law, 2011

Despite international law’s identity as focused on spatial relations, it has long been dominated by a temporal, narrative imagination. This article argues for an increased spatial conception of international law, but one that is also culturally and temporally enriched. It begins with a section called « Regionalism without the Region, » which describes how efforts at emphasizing the region in international law are often empty of regional content-that is, of true locality. Then, in a section on « GlobaliZation without the Globe, » the article describes how globaliZation studies have focused on globaliZation as a process-that is, on the « ization » rather than the « globe » and, consequently, the real geographical impact. Finally, in a section entitled, ‘Westphalia without the West, » the article takes on the Westphalian myth and suggests that the Westphalian state system was never fully in place and if so only for the briefest of moments-even in its supposed epicenter. In sum, international law has adopted so strong a narrative mode that it is ultimately more interested in mapping than maps, losing sight of geographical specificity.

Prabhakar Singh, Of International Law, Semi-colonial Thailand, and Imperial Ghosts, Asian Journal of International Law, 2019

I argue that contextually reading two disputes involving Siam—Cheek v. Siam (1898) and the Temple of Preah Vihear (1962)—proves that both private law and public international law are structurally rigged against ex-semi-colonial nations. Nineteenth-century Siam was a political ferment known variously as a semi-colonial, semi-peripheral, non-colonial, or uncolonized polity. Siam bargained under imperial shadows her political independence by the tactical grants of concession contracts, as well as by negotiating treaties with competing European powers. In the post-colonial Temple of Preah Vihear case, colonial stationery—maps, photographs, and communiqués—as well as imperial customs offered evidentiary support to Cambodia, an ex-colonial state, against Thailand. In the early twentieth century, while authors picked Cheek v. Siam as a precedent for the law of international claims, textbooks offer the Temple of Preah Vihear case as a precedent on the form of treaties and estoppel. Conclusively, these two cases allow us to locate, if not exorcise, the ghosts of empires in Asian legal history, exposing, at the same time, Judge Koo’s Orientalization of customary international law.

Cemil Aydin, The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History, Harvard University Press 
March 2017

When President Barack Obama visited Cairo in 2009 to deliver an address to Muslims worldwide, he followed in the footsteps of countless politicians who have taken the existence of a unified global Muslim community for granted. But as Cemil Aydin explains in this provocative history, it is a misconception to think that the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims constitute a single religio-political entity. How did this belief arise, and why is it so widespread? The Idea of the Muslim World searches for the intellectual origins of a mistaken notion and explains its enduring allure for non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Conceived as the antithesis of Western Christian civilization, the idea of the Muslim world emerged in the late nineteenth century, when European empires ruled the majority of Muslims. It was inflected from the start by theories of white supremacy, but Muslims had a hand in shaping the idea as well. Aydin reveals the role of Muslim intellectuals in envisioning and essentializing an idealized pan-Islamic society that refuted claims of Muslims’ racial and civilizational inferiority.

After playing a key role in the politics of the Ottoman Caliphate, the idea of the Muslim world survived decolonization and the Cold War, and took on new force in the late twentieth century. Standing at the center of both Islamophobic and pan-Islamic ideologies, the idea of the Muslim world continues to hold the global imagination in a grip that will need to be loosened in order to begin a more fruitful discussion about politics in Muslim societies today.

As a state that occupied an unstable position on the continuum of late nineteenth-century European inter-imperial system of sovereignty—oscillating between a subject and an object of new forms of imperialism—I argue that the Ottoman Empire presents a unique case study through which to examine the process of legalistic exclusion of non-Western states from an emerging international system of legal relations. This article investigates the precarity of Ottoman sovereignty in the Horn of Africa at the end of the nineteenth century in relation to a growing European global legal hegemony. It historicizes the process of Ottoman exclusion from the ‘family of sovereign nations’ with all the rights and privileges that belonging to this exclusive group of European imperial states entailed. This is done through an excavation of the roots of nineteenth-century international law and its relation to the Ottoman state, followed by the demonstrative example of the Ottoman-British negotiations surrounding Ottoman rule in Zeila (Somalia) and Massawa (Eritrea) between 1885 and 1895.

The contributors look at how Africans negotiated the terms of modernity during the colonial period and are dealing with it in the post-colonial period. They argue that the African experience of modernity is unique and relevant for wider social theory, offering valuable analytical insights. The cases presented cover labor, land rights, religious conversion, internal migration, emigration and the African diaspora.

Lasse Heerten, The Biafran War and Postcolonial Humanitarianism. Spectacles of Suffering, Cambridge University Press, 2017

In the summer of 1968, audiences around the globe were shocked when newspapers and television stations confronted them with photographs of starving children in the secessionist Republic of Biafra. This global concern fundamentally changed how the Nigerian Civil War was perceived: an African civil war that had been fought for one year without fostering any substantial interest from international publics became ‘Biafra’ – the epitome of humanitarian crisis. Based on archival research from North America, Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, this book is the first comprehensive study of the global history of the conflict. A major addition to the flourishing history of human rights and humanitarianism, it argues that the global moment ‘Biafra’ is closely linked to the ascendance of human rights, humanitarianism, and Holocaust memory in a postcolonial world. The conflict was a key episode for the re-structuring of the relations between the West and the Third World.

Samuel Fury Childs Daly, A History of the Republic of Biafra. Law, Crime, and the Nigerian Civil War, Cambridge University Press, 2020

The Republic of Biafra lasted for less than three years, but the war over its secession would contort Nigeria for decades to come. Samuel Fury Childs Daly examines the history of the Nigerian Civil War and its aftermath from an uncommon vantage point – the courtroom. Wartime Biafra was glutted with firearms, wracked by famine, and administered by a government that buckled under the weight of the conflict. In these dangerous conditions, many people survived by engaging in fraud, extortion, and armed violence. When the fighting ended in 1970, these survival tactics endured, even though Biafra itself disappeared from the map. Based on research using an original archive of legal records and oral histories, Daly catalogues how people navigated conditions of extreme hardship on the war front, and shows how the conditions of the Nigerian Civil War paved the way for the country’s long experience of crime that was to follow.

Richardson-Little exposes the forgotten history of human rights in the German Democratic Republic, placing the history of the Cold War, Eastern European dissidents and the revolutions of 1989 in a new light. By demonstrating how even a communist dictatorship could imagine itself to be a champion of human rights, this book challenges popular narratives on the fall of the Berlin Wall and illustrates how notions of human rights evolved in the Cold War as they were re-imagined in East Germany by both dissidents and state officials. Ultimately, the fight for human rights in East Germany was part of a global battle in the post-war era over competing conceptions of what human rights meant. Nonetheless, the collapse of dictatorship in East Germany did not end this conflict, as citizens had to choose for themselves what kind of human rights would follow in its wake.

Andrew Levidis and Barak Kushner (eds), In the Ruins of the Japanese Empire  Imperial Violence, State Destruction, and the Reordering of Modern East Asia, Hong Kong University Press, 2020

In the Ruins of the Japanese Empire concludes that early East Asian Cold War history needs to be studied within the framework of post-imperial history. Japan’s surrender did not mean that the Japanese and former imperial subjects would immediately disavow imperial ideology. The end of the Japanese empire unleashed unprecedented destruction and violence on the periphery. Lives were destroyed; names of cities altered; collaborationist regimes—which for over a decade dominated vast populations—melted into the air as policeman, bureaucrats, soldiers, and technocrats offered their services as nationalists, revolutionaries or communists. Power did not simply change hands swiftly and smoothly. In the chaos of the new order, legal anarchy, revenge, ethnic displacement, and nationalist resentments stalked the postcolonial lands of northeast Asia, intensifying bloody civil wars in societies radicalized by total war, militarization, and mass mobilization.

Kushner and Levidis’s volume follows these processes as imperial violence reordered demographics and borders, and involved massive political, economic, and social dislocation as well as stubborn continuities. From the hunt for “traitors” in Korea and China to the brutal suppression of the Taiwanese by the Chinese Nationalist government in the long-forgotten February 28 Incident, the research shows how the empire’s end acted as a catalyst for renewed attempts at state-building. From the imperial edge to the metropole, investigations shed light on how prewar imperial values endured during postwar Japanese rearmament and in party politics. Nevertheless, many Japanese actively tried to make amends for wartime transgressions and rebuild Japan’s posture in East Asia by cultivating religious and cultural connections.

Aden Knaap, (with Dr. Narrelle Morris) « When Institutional Design is Flawed: Problems of Cooperation at the United Nations War Crimes Commission, 1943–48, » European Journal of International Law 28 no. 2


The United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) (1943–1948) was the principal multilateral institution set up by the Allied powers to consider evidence of war crimes committed by the enemy in World War II. From the outset, the UNWCC’s main purpose was to achieve post-war ‘preparedness’ in relation to war crimes, so that the delays and mistakes made in trying suspected German war criminals after World War I were not repeated. Although the UNWCC was originally conceptualized as a fact-finding body, it did not have its own investigatory arm or the resources to undertake investigations. Rather, the evidence of war crimes was meant to be gathered by each member nation and then submitted to the UNWCC for consideration. The limited flow of information to the UNWCC in 1943–1944, however, made it clear that this self-reporting system was flawed, putting at risk the goal of preparedness. This article first examines how problems of national level UNWCC collaboration were recognized and the concerns about information flow that were articulated. Second, it examines the unsuccessful proposal put forward by the Australian representative, Lord Wright of Durley, to modify the institutional design of the UNWCC to incorporate an investigatory function. While the UNWCC achieved far too much in its short lifespan to be considered a failed organization, the flaws in its institutional design created collaboration problems during the war and also ensured that it was too easily sidelined by the Allied governments after the war.

Boyd van Dijk, Human Rights in War: On the Entangled Foundations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. American Journal of International Law, 112

The relationship between human rights and humanitarian law is one of the most contentious topics in the history of international law. Most scholars studying their foundations argue that these two fields of law developed separately until the 1960s. This article, by contrast, reveals a much earlier cross-fertilization between these disciplines. It shows how “human rights thinking” played a critical generative role in transforming humanitarian law, thereby creating important legacies for today’s understandings of international law in armed conflict.

Georgios Giannakopoulos, Introduction: Britain, European civilization and the idea of liberty, History of European Ideas 2020

The complex web of intellectual exchanges between Britain and Europe remains a peripheral concern for historians interested in the circulation of ideas across national, international and imperial frameworks. This special issue attempts to fill the lacuna by presenting new research on the triangular relationship between Britain, Europe and the idea of liberty during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The articles featured in this issue revisit established narratives, discuss novel case-studies and address the question of Britain’s special relationship with liberty in an age marked by impediments to the freedom of movement and the erection of nationalist boundaries across Europe, and the world.

Diane Marie Amann: “Cecelia Goetz, Woman at Nuremberg,” 11 International Criminal Law Review 607

Among the creators of international criminal law were the many women who participated in the post-World War II trials of former Nazis and Nazi collaborators. This essay profiles one of those women: Cecelia Goetz, a thirty-year-old American who was the only woman to deliver an opening statement at Nuremberg. The essay not only details how and why Goetz became a prosecutor in the Krupptrial, but also relates a life story marked by many “first women” events, on law review, at the U.S. Department of Justice, and, after Nuremberg, in the federal judiciary.

Daniel R. Quiroga-Villamarín, ‘An Atmosphere of Genuine Solidarity and Brotherhood’: Hernán Santa-Cruz and a Forgotten Latin American Contribution to Social Rights, Journal of the History of International Law 2019

Latin America played a crucial role in furthering the cause of human rights at the nascent United Nations (UN) when great powers were mostly interested in limiting the scope to issues of collective security. Following this line of thought, this article aims to understand the Latin American contributions to the promotion of ESCRs in both global and regional debates by tracing the figure of the Chilean diplomat Hernán Santa-Cruz and his efforts as both a drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and founder of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). In Santa-Cruz’s silhouette we can find a vivid example of Latin American thought regarding social rights, marked by the intersections and contradictions of regional discourses such as social Catholicism, socialist constitutionalism, and developmentalist economic theories.

Jessie Hohmann & Daniel Joyce (eds.), International Law’s Objects, Oxford University Press, 2018

International law’s rich existence in the world can be illuminated by its objects. International law is often developed, conveyed, and authorized through its objects and/or their representation. From the symbolic (the regalia of the head of state and the symbols of sovereignty), to the mundane (a can of dolphin-safe tuna certified as complying with international trade standards), international legal authority can be found in the objects around us. Similarly, the practice of international law often relies on material objects or their image, both as evidence (satellite images, bones of the victims of mass atrocities) and to found authority (for instance, maps and charts). This volume considers these questions: firstly what might the study of international law through objects reveal? What might objects, rather than texts, tell us about sources, recognition of states, construction of territory, law of the sea, or international human rights law? Secondly, what might this scholarly undertaking reveal about the objects – as aims or projects – of international law? How do objects reveal, or perhaps mask, these aims, and what does this tell us about the reasons some (physical or material) objects are foregrounded, and others hidden or ignored. Thirdly what objects, icons, and symbols preoccupy the profession and academy? The personal selection of these objects by leading and emerging scholars worldwide will illuminate the contemporary and historical fascinations of international lawyers. By considering international law in the context of its material culture the authors offer a new and exciting theoretical perspective on the subject.

In 1944, Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide” to describe a foreign occupation that destroyed or permanently crippled a subject population. In this tradition, Empire, Colony, Genocide embeds genocide in the epochal geopolitical transformations of the past 500 years: the European colonization of the globe, the rise and fall of the continental land empires, violent decolonization, and the formation of nation states. It thereby challenges the customary focus on twentieth-century mass crimes and shows that genocide and “ethnic cleansing” have been intrinsic to imperial expansion. The complexity of the colonial encounter is reflected in the contrast between the insurgent identities and genocidal strategies that subaltern peoples sometimes developed to expel the occupiers, and those local elites and creole groups that the occupiers sought to co-opt. Presenting case studies on the Americas, Australia, Africa, Asia, the Ottoman Empire, Imperial Russia, and the Nazi “Third Reich,” leading authorities examine the colonial dimension of the genocide concept as well as the imperial systems and discourses that enabled conquest. Empire, Colony, Genocide is a world history of genocide that highlights what Lemkin called “the role of the human group and its tribulations.”

Charles Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust, and German National Identity,
Harvard University Press, 1988

Bringing his book up to date with reflections since its first publication a decade ago, Charles S. Maier writes that the historians’ controversy gave Germany a chance to air the issues immediately before unification and, in effect, the controversy substituted for the constitutional debate that a united Germany never got around to holding. The premises of national community, whether formulated in terms of legal culture, inherited collective responsibilities, or patriotic habits of the heart, had already been subjects for vigorous discussion.

Transnationale Debatten unter Juristen haben das humanitäre Völkerrecht entscheidend geformt. Die Zivilisierung von Kriegsgewalt stand seit der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts im Zentrum und gipfelte im Konzept von « Crimes against Humanity », das im Internationalen Militärtribunal von Nürnberg erstmals zum Tatbestand erhoben wurde.

Kerstin von Lingen zeichnet diesen Weg nach – von den frühen völkerrechtlichen Debatten unter Juristen über die Haager Friedenskonferenzen und die Verhandlungen von Versailles nach dem Ende des Ersten Weltkriegs. Angesichts immer höherer Opferzahlen und ansteigender Massengewalt gegen Zivilisten wirkte der Zweite Weltkrieg wie ein Katalysator: Das Konzept « Crimes against Humanity » wurde in London in Gremien geschärft, deren Akten für dieses Buch erstmals ausgewertet wurden. « Crimes against Humanity » wurde nach 1945 neben dem Genozid-Vorwurf zum wichtigsten juristischen Werkzeug unserer Zeit, um Massengewalt gegen Zivilisten zu ahnden.

Sabina Ferhadbegovic, Brigitte Weiffen, Bürgerkriege erzählen. Zum Verlauf unziviler Konflikte,
Konstanz University Press 2011

Bürgerkrieg ist nicht einfach als Gegensatz zum Staatenkrieg zu verstehen, und eine Theorie dieser Konfliktform gibt es nicht. Wie Gesellschaften auch unter den Bedingungen des Bürgerkrieges funktionieren, ist kaum erforscht.

Die Herausgeberinnen des Bandes gehen davon aus, dass Bürgerkriege nicht nur die Grundlagen des gesellschaftlichen Zusammenlebens erschüttern, sondern auch als Katalysatoren für neue soziale, politische und kulturell bedingte Zugehörigkeiten wirken. Diesen gegenläufigen Prozessen von Integration und Desintegration widmen sich die Beiträge, indem sie Fragen nach den narrativen Strategien stellen, mit welchen Bürgerkriege legitimiert, erklärt, bewältigt und dargestellt werden. Der historische Bestand erstreckt sich von den römischen Bürgerkriegen über den Amerikanischen und Spanischen Bürgerkrieg bis hin zu den unzivilen Konflikten in Ex-Jugoslawien, Afrika und Irland. Dabei kommen so unterschiedliche Phänomene in den Blick wie Rassismus, Fremdenfeindlichkeit und »freiwillige Apartheid«, Legitimation von Gewalt, die Suche nach Wahrheit in Wahrheitskommissionen, das Erinnern, Vergessen und Verbieten von Erzählungen, aber auch Kriegsphotographie und die ambivalente Rolle von Religion. Anhand dieser Aspekte legen die Autorinnen und Autoren dieses Bandes offen, welche Deutungen kulturelle Medien vor, im Verlauf und nach einem Konflikt liefern, welche Rolle sie bei der Sinnproduktion und der Herstellung kultureller und sozialer Identifikation und Differenz einnehmen und wie sie in Konflikte und Machtkonstellationen involviert sind.

Mit Beiträgen u.a. von Aleida Assmann, Marcel Baumann, Davor Beganovic, Susanne Buckley-Zistel, Alexander De Juan, Ulrich Gotter, Andreas Hasenclever, Albrecht Koschorke, Philip Manow, Ethel Matala de Mazza, Klaus Schlichte, Wolfgang Seibel, Bernd Stiegler, Daniel Šuber, Alex Veit und Stefan Zahlmann.

Barak Kushner, Men to Devils, Devils to Men. Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice,
Harvard University Press, 2015.

The Japanese Army committed numerous atrocities during its pitiless campaigns in China from 1931 to 1945. When the Chinese emerged victorious with the Allies at the end of World War II, many seemed ready to exact retribution for these crimes. Rather than resort to violence, however, they chose to deal with their former enemy through legal and diplomatic means. Focusing on the trials of, and policies toward, Japanese war criminals in the postwar period, Men to Devils, Devils to Men analyzes the complex political maneuvering between China and Japan that shaped East Asian realpolitik during the Cold War.

Barak Kushner examines how factions of Nationalists and Communists within China structured the war crimes trials in ways meant to strengthen their competing claims to political rule. On the international stage, both China and Japan propagandized the tribunals, promoting or blocking them for their own advantage. Both nations vied to prove their justness to the world: competing groups in China by emphasizing their magnanimous policy toward the Japanese; Japan by openly cooperating with postwar democratization initiatives. At home, however, Japan allowed the legitimacy of the war crimes trials to be questioned in intense debates that became a formidable force in postwar Japanese politics.

In uncovering the different ways the pursuit of justice for Japanese war crimes influenced Sino–Japanese relations in the postwar years, Men to Devils, Devils to Men reveals a Cold War dynamic that still roils East Asian relations today.

The main Nuremberg trial (1945-46) of 21 Nazi leaders and 7 criminal organizations is largely remembered today for its legal innovations (definition of “crime against humanity”) as well as its attempt to hold some of the Holocaust’s architects responsible for their actions and those of the Nazi state. The book sheds new light on this trial by contextualizing its position in a social history of legal ideas and practices during the 20th century and it raises the question of how U.S. racial issues could have affected this international judicial experience.

The book focuses on the Allied (particularly American) staff involved in the conception, preparation, and implementation of the international trial, while also examining the activists who tried in the United States, during and after the trial, to seize and appropriate Nuremberg’s legal tools to advance their own cause(s), especially in the context of the civil rights struggle in the 1940s and 1950s and the anti-Vietnam War campaign in the following decade. One of the project’s main achievements is to highlight the overlooked link between the drafting of the Nuremberg legal framework and the unequal domestic racial order in the U.S. during and after the Second World War.

Read an article of Guillaume Mouralis on The Conversation in which he analyses the “spirit of Nuremberg” and the rift between international criminal justice and the US government

Elizabeth Borgwardt, New Deal for the World America’s Vision for Human Rights, 
Harvard University Press, 2005

In a work of sweeping scope and luminous detail, Elizabeth Borgwardt describes how a cadre of World War II American planners inaugurated the ideas and institutions that underlie our modern international human rights regime.

Borgwardt finds the key in the 1941 Atlantic Charter and its Anglo-American vision of “war and peace aims.” In attempting to globalize what U.S. planners heralded as domestic New Deal ideas about security, the ideology of the Atlantic Charter buttressed by FDR’s “Four Freedoms” and the legacies of World War I redefined human rights and America’s vision for the world.

Three sets of international negotiations brought the Atlantic Charter blueprint to life—Bretton Woods, the United Nations, and the Nuremberg trials. These new institutions set up mechanisms to stabilize the international economy, promote collective security, and implement new thinking about international justice. The design of these institutions served as a concrete articulation of U.S. national interests, even as they emphasized the importance of working with allies to achieve common goals. The American architects of these charters were attempting to redefine the idea of security in the international sphere. To varying degrees, these institutions and the debates surrounding them set the foundations for the world we know today.

By analyzing the interaction of ideas, individuals, and institutions that transformed American foreign policy and Americans’ view of themselves Borgwardt illuminates the broader history of modern human rights, trade and the global economy, collective security, and international law. This book captures a lost vision of the American role in the world.

Read an interview with Elizabeth Borgwardt in which she discusses the history of “crimes against humanity” at the website of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, which seeks to recognize social scientists for work that contributes significantly to the study of global history