Historians of Public International Law traditionally start their inquiries in doctrine or look at established source-edition series, focusing mainly on treaties. However, a close reading of diplomatic correspondence can uncover "law in minds" or "the life of the law", and instruct us on the practical use of international legal argument. The present contribution is based on the theoretical and methodological part of my Ph.D.-thesis, which dealt with two cases. On one hand, French and British diplomacy in the early eighteenth century (1713-1740), based on primary archival sources. On the other, French contestation of the bipolar Cold War-order, based on edited French and West German correspondence. In both cases, anti-hegemonic, state-consent based arguments derived from international law from the vector in which third-party adherence is sought. I argue that this model is fundamental to European international relations. Diplomatic legal culture helps us explain how international order can be maintained without institutions. Tackling this issue requires training both in diplomatic history and international law, and considerably enhances our understanding of law's operation in between watershed events or landmark international treaties.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Dhondt on Diplomatic History as "International Law in Action"
Frederik Dhondt, Research Foundation Flanders/Legal History Institute, Ghent University, has posted Looking Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg: Diplomatic Praxis and Legal Culture in the History of Public International Law, which is to appear in the trilingual Rechtskultur - Zeitschrift für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte/European Journal of Legal History/Journal Européen d'histoire du Droit 2 (2013). Here is the abstract: