14 January 2020

JOURNAL: Journal of the History of International Law/Revue d'histoire du droit international XXI (2019), No. 4 (December)

(image source: Brill)

International Law as Insulation – The Case of the World Bank in the Decolonization Era (Dimitri Van Den Meerssche)
This article maps out how (international) legal concepts and norms were employed during the inter-institutional struggle between the United Nations and the World Bank in the decolonization era. The first contribution is historiographical. Drawing on material from the Bank’s (oral) archives, the article gives an original account of the ways in which the organization bypassed the universalist aspirations that were gaining a foothold in the UN’s democratic bodies. Secondly, the paper retraces how this particular event gave rise to a clash between opposing imaginaries of international legal order, where axiological aspirations voiced by states from the Global South were ultimately frustrated by a functionalist understanding of international (institutional) law that justified the Bank’s institutional insulation. Finally, the paper aims to provide a modest methodological contribution to the field of international institutional law – a doctrinal discipline that traditionally pays little empirical attention to the historical and sociological performativity of concrete legal interventions.
 The Co-creation of Imperial Logic in South American Legal History (Fernando Pérez Godoy)
This study is part of the current trend of expanding ‘histories of international law’. From a regional perspective, I analyse not just the South American dimension of the process known as the ‘universalization of international law science’, but also focus on the ‘ideological use’ of ius gentium europaeum in the debate on the occupation of indigenous territories governing by the nation Mapuche in the south of Chile (1861–1883) and then the discussion on the legitimacy of the Saltpeter War between Chile and the Bolivian-Peruvian Alliance (1879–1884). I argue that the Chilean national legal discourse applied a core argument of nineteenth-century international law to legitimize its foreign policy in those conflicts: ‘the standard of civilization’. Thus, it is possible to speak about a domestic recreation of imperial logic as part of the globalization of the European law of nations in the nineteenth century.
The Impasse of Human Rights: a Note on Human Rights, Natural Rights and Continuities in International Law (Mónica García-Salmones Rovira)
Studies on the nature of human rights have reached an impasse largely due to a general resistance to engage with the continuity of ideas and theories drawn from religion, morality and ethics in the history of international law. With the impasse of human rights, the article refers to an epistemological deadlock about what human rights are. Studying the concept of natural rights, it is argued, offers a means of breaking this impasse and, ultimately, easing the current tension between historicism and essentialism in human rights theory. The article concludes that natural rights were means to decide the moral questions posed by the violent redistribution of (material) goods taken to be common by the theoreticians of the expanding European empires. Probing in this manner into natural rights’ early uses and embedded theories gives us new tools and fresh approaches to be employed in relation to the challenges posed by contemporary global politics.
 Sovereignty under the League of Nations Mandates: The Jurists’ Debates (Leonard V. Smith)
The mandate system took shape at an inflexion point in the evolution from an international system based on rule over territories to one based on rule over peoples. Political compromises made at the Paris Peace Conference resulted in the creation of a new political agent, the League of Nations Mandate, with no clear sovereign. In seeking to systematize this political outcome, jurists located sovereignty with the victorious Great Powers, the League itself, and with the peoples of the mandate territories. Yet they never achieved a consensus, which created an absence at the centre of the mandate system that politics would have to fill throughout the interwar period.
Book reviews:
Frieden durch Recht? Der Aufstieg des modernen Völkerrechts und der Friedensschluss nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, written by Marcus M. Payk
Justice in a New World: Negotiating Legal Intelligibility in British, Iberian, and Indigenous America, edited by Brian P. Owensby and Richard J. Ross By: Daniel S. Allemann
Le droit international antiesclavagiste des ‘nations civilisées’ (1815–1945), written by Michel Erpelding By: Anne-Charlotte Martineau
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(source: ESILHIL Blog)

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