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Histories: International Law and European Law

The last fifteen years has witnessed a remarkable revival of interest in the history of international law among international legal scholars, and scholars of international history and the history of political thought. At the same time, the European project has developed a fascinating and complex history in a strikingly short time, and historians, lawyers and political scientists have in recent years begun to explore this history and the role of European law in the broader contexts of European integration and international law.

The Academy of European Law undertakes research in these two areas in its project: Histories: International Law and European Law.

International Law

Renewed interest in historical perspectives of international law may have diverse sources, but appear to lie in several parallel developments:

(a) An increased historical consciousness among scholars and students of international law. This new historicism has been spurred in part by a return to questions of empire and the place of international law in imperial formations in light of a new epoch of interventionism in the name of humanity, and also by the intense preoccupation with sovereignty and the nature of international society that has characterized a new period of globalization.

(b) The rise of “international history” as a loosely defined subfield of historical scholarship. Historians have begun to revisit the history of international institutions (the League of Nations, the Mandates, the foundation of the United Nations) and international political and legal movements such as human rights and the laws of war, and humanitarian intervention.

(c) The increasing interest of intellectual historians, historians of political thought and political theorists in what might be called “international political thought.”    

As a consequence of these developments research in the history and theory of international law is being expanded and deepened, shedding new light on a large range of periods and topics, and recasting some of the classical questions of international legal theory and international political thought.

The Academy of European Law is contributing to this body of research through its annual scholarly meetings, conferences and workshops, the aims of which are manifold: to provide a forum for the very best of this new research; to help catalyse and encourage this exciting new scholarship which bridges international law, political theory, intellectual history and international history, and; to connect hitherto relatively insular national communities of scholars working on related themes and questions. Several of the Academy’s workshops and meetings have resulted or will result in publications, including edited volumes and special journal issues.

Recent research workshops and conferences include:

European Union Law

December 2015 marked an important date for European lawyers, historians and political scientists:  the historical archives of the European Court of Justice, deposited with the Historical Archives of the European Union at the European University Institute, were opened to the research community.

To mark this important development, the Academy of European Law, in collaboration with the research project “Towards a New History of European Public Law”, hosted by the SAXO Institute at the University of Copenhagen, organised a major conference: Setting an Agenda for Historical Research in European Law. Actors, Institutions, and Member StatesThis conference brought together historical, legal and political science scholars to discuss and re-interpret the history of European law, with the aim of developing a new broader and more reflective agenda for future historical research in EU law.

Within the context of this research focus of the Academy, Professor Marise Cremona also participated in the conference Enlargement: Interdisciplinary Perspectives for New Approaches at the University of Copenhagen in May 2015, with a paper entitled “Enlargement as Foreign Policy: A Research Agenda”. 

A Master Class and Training Session on 6-7 June 2019 marked the official kick off of the Academy’s Court of Justice in the Archives project, which is funded by the EUI Research Council. The workshop brought together members of an international project board and project researchers to discuss different disciplinary approaches to historical research on the Court of Justice. Over the summer of 2019, the project researchers systematically analysed the dossiers de procédures of 12 key cases from the 1960s-1980s that had previously been unavailable to the public, including Van DuynPlaumann, and ERTA.

In addition to receiving comments from designated project board members, the project researchers met with noted EU law historian Associate Professor Morten Rasmussen (Copenhagen University) on 17 October 2019 and with Antoine Vauchez (Research Professor in Political Sociology at the Centre européen de sociologie et de science politique, Université Paris 1-Sorbonne) on 24 January 2020 to present their findings and discuss ways to improve their reports.

Related Academy events include:

  • a seminar entitled “The Court of Justice in the Archives: considering the added value of the archivalmaterial” on 20-21 February 2020, where members of the project team and project board will meet to address two core questions:
     (1)    How can we best demonstrate and evaluate the potential of the Court of Justice archives from a range of disciplinary perspectives?
    (2)    How can we convey and consider the specificities of this archival holding?




Page last updated on 27 November 2020