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Sovereignty and the Laws of War: International Consequences of Japan's 1905 Victory over Russia


The Russo–Japanese War (1904–1905), recently commemorated with several international conference volumes, is identified by a majority of contributors as the first modern, global war. In making such a judgment, these scholars note its scale, its nationalism, its colonialism and geopolitical repercussions. What is surprising, however, is that no one has remarked on another significance: it was the first war in which both belligerents pledged to adhere to the international laws of war. In that regard, the Russo–Japanese War marks a culmination of the tireless international diplomacy to secure legal limitations on warfare in the nineteenth century. In 1904, both Russia and Japan justified their operations according to international law, for the benefit of an international audience who had five years earlier celebrated some progress with the signing of The Hague Conventions in 1899.

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Anthony Carty , Philosophy of International Law (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), ch. 4

John Austin , The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, ed. Wilfrid E. Rumble (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 123–25, 171, 175f

Stephen C. Neff , War and the Law of Nations: A General History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 239–41

Martti Koskenniemi , The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

John Albert White , The Diplomacy of the Russo-Japanese War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), 156–63

J. N. Westwood , Russia against Japan, 1904-05 (London: Macmillan, 1986), 137–51

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Law and History Review
  • ISSN: 0738-2480
  • EISSN: 1939-9022
  • URL: /core/journals/law-and-history-review
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