Bringing the History of International Law into the Mainstream

Seminar with Marco Duranti, who will discuss the methodological innovations of his new book, The Conservative Human Rights Revolution.


Marco Duranti will discuss the methodological innovations of his new book, The Conservative Human Rights Revolution, which draws on material from twenty archives in six countries to retrace the origins of the European Court of Human Rights.

It is long past time that historians of international law make use of the kinds of methods and archival material common to mainstream historical scholarship. They must be willing to approach their subject at a tangent, locating their subjects in a wider range of contexts and analysing a more diverse array of sources. The study of origins should pay more attention to the dynamics of domestic political parties, institutions, and mores, as well as the symbolism of works of art, architecture, and poetry.

The central protagonists of international law were not limited to international lawyers and intellectuals, or diplomats and technical experts. Treaties, like international courts, must be treated as political and cultural artefacts: the products of both sense and sensibility, political manoeuvring and the imagination.

Most critically, more needs to be done to write micro-histories of those spaces and moments that catalysed innovations in the international legal field. The goal is not to supplant existing histories of international law, which tend to focus on genealogies of concepts or the motives of state actors involved in negotiations over texts. Rather, the way forward is to bring the history of international law into conversation with historians who may otherwise not see its relevance to their own work, all the while providing jurists with a broader perspective on how the past illuminates the present.

All interested are welcome to attend. Registration is not necessary.