Minorities and Majorities

Janne E. Nijman

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599752
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law

Minorities and Majorities


This chapter discusses the paradox of minorities as a constitutive Other of international law. While minorities have been viewed as outside the international legal system for centuries, minorities have at the same time made a significant and fundamental contribution to precisely that system, as they are among the oldest challenges of international (legal) relations between empires, cities, and States. The discussion examines the arrangements for minority protection in two very different periods in history: 17th-century Westphalian system; and 20th-century interbellum. It considers different levels of analysis: histories of international law and the position of minorities therein; instances of positive international law regarding minorities; and, on a more general level, the contribution of minorities as outsiders to the ‘system’ of international law.

Keywords: international law; minority protection; Westphalian system; minority rights; international legal system; 20th-century interbellum

Article.  12165 words. 

Subjects: Law ; History of Law ; International Law

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