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The Gentle Civilizer of Nations
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Book description

International law was born from the impulse to 'civilize' late nineteenth-century attitudes towards race and society, argues Martti Koskenniemi in this extensive study of the rise and fall of modern international law. In a work of wide-ranging intellectual scope, now available for the first time in paperback, Koskenniemi traces the emergence of a liberal sensibility relating to international matters in the late nineteenth century, and its subsequent decline after the Second World War. He combines legal analysis, historical and political critique and semi-biographical studies of key figures (including Hans Kelsen, Hersch Lauterpacht, Carl Schmitt and Hans Morgenthau); he also considers the role of crucial institutions (the Institut de droit international, the League of Nations). His discussion of legal and political realism at American law schools ends in a critique of post-1960 'instrumentalism'. This book provides a unique reflection on the possibility of critical international law today.


‘... a great achievement of European history of science and a literary masterpiece.’

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

‘... a splendid book of masterful writing and superb intelligence.’

Source: Leiden Journal of International Law

‘One is struck by Koskenniemi’s profound analysis, his richness of sources and linguistic knowledge. And finally, there are very few academic volumes that make such enjoyable reading.’

Source: European Journal of International Law

‘... a work that demands engagement of its readers, and repays repeated readings.’

Source: Modern Law Review

‘…Martti Koskenniemi is the first author in decades to concentrate on the development and history of public international law with special regard to its theoretical foundations in a monographic study … He studies and describes with the utmost precision the development and institutionalization of modern public international law as well as the professionalization of the discipline in its most exciting and important periods of development.’

Source: Journal of German History

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