The overarching aim is to expose the contingencies and determining factors of international law’s development by inquiring into its past as a repository of possibilities.
Such inquiries may be of systematic purport, asking, for example, how a different conceptions of the sources of international law could have emerged. Or they may focus on specific areas of the law, asking questions such as whether the idea of state crimes could have taken hold or whether the NIEO could have achieved greater success. International law’s past is almost certainly ripe with possibilities that we have forgotten. The project will seek to reveal and remember them.
The project will focus on trying to tell compelling stories about international law’s contingency. To be sure, those attempts may fail and claims to contingency may well turn out to be false. Either way, though, we question the present state of international law by challenging its pretense to necessity and by better understanding the forces that have shaped it. Put simply by Robert Musil: ‘If there is a sense of reality, there must also be a sense for possibility’.
Researchers focus on:
- the development of the law of state responsibility (Kathryn Greenman)
- the Vietnam War and the transformation of international law (Kevin Jon Heller and Samuel Moyn)
- the international legal thought of Hugo Grotius (Janne Nijman), and
- international economic law (Ingo Venzke).
The research of Heather Bray and Vladislav Djanic on the development of international investment law (part of the project Lex Mercatoria Publica), also has connections with this project.
- Kathryn Greenman
- Kevin Heller
- Janne Nijman
- Ingo Venzke
- Heather Bray
- Vladislav Djanic
Samuel Moyn (Yale)
- Conference: ‘Contingency in the Course of International Law’, Amsterdam, 14-16 June 2018
Select Research Output
- The Secret History of Successful Rebellions in the Law of State Responsibility, 6(9) ESIL Reflection (2017).
- What Is an International Crime? (A Revisionist History), 58 Harvard International Law Journal (2018)
- Specially-Affected States and the Formation of Custom, 112 American Journal of International Law (2018).
- Possibilities of the Past? The Histories of the NIEO and the Travails of Critique, 29 Journal of the History of International Law
- What If? Counterfactual (Hi)Stories of International Law, 7 Asian Journal of International Law