International Law and <i>raison d’état</i>: Rethinking the Prehistory of International Law

Martti Koskenniemi

in The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199599875
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595813 | DOI:
International Law and raison d’état: Rethinking the Prehistory of International Law

Show Summary Details


This chapter argues that no continuous tradition of international legal thought exists from early modernity — Gentili, Vitoria, Suárez, Grotius, Pufendorf, Vattel, however one wants to date the moment of inception — to the 20th century. What we read in standard histories is a myth. Nineteenth-century international lawyers imagined a history to what they were doing because that was the habit of a historical age. What we have, instead, is a literature on the government of modern states that occasionally deals with the external aspects of that government — war, treaties, and diplomacy. But these are not understood as a legal ‘system’ somewhere outside statehood, with the point of limiting the negative effects of state policy. Instead, they are part of a functional notion of territorial rule the purpose of which varied over time from ‘conservation’ of the realm to the ‘perfection’ of its people.

Keywords: international legal thought; international law; state policy; territorial rule

Chapter.  23088 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.