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History, Politics, Law

History, Politics, Law

Thinking through the international

Clare College, Cambridge, May 16th-17th 2016
Organisers: Annabel Brett (Cambridge) and Martti Koskenniemi (Helsinki)


In recent years, two decisive trends have occurred in the fields of international law and the history of political thought. The ‘historical turn’ in international law has involved students of that discipline in intense reflection on what kind of history international law can, and should, have. At the same time, the history of political thought has been undergoing an ‘international’ (or indeed a global) turn, changing its focus from questions largely generated by conceptualising the state or polity in isolation to questions arising from thinking of politics and polities in relation to others. As a result, international lawyers and historians of political thought have increasingly been reading each other’s work, meeting each other at conferences, etc., to their mutual benefit. Nevertheless, neither turn has been methodologically very comfortable for its participants, nor have people from either discipline got together to try to think through, in any systematic way, where it is that the history of political thought and the history of international law come together, and where – and if – they must necessarily divide. What is it to do one or the other? This conference aims to address that subject by bringing together some of the most distinguished practitioners in both fields for a sustained discussion. We begin with a directly methodological opening session, and then proceed to think through the historical in international law, and the international in the history of political thought, in a series of themed conversations. Reflections and a roundtable will bring the discussions to a close, if not a conclusion.

Speakers include Anne Orford, Richard Tuck, Gerry Simpson, Jennifer Pitts, David Kennedy, Karen Knop, Duncan Kennedy, Gareth Stedman-Jones, Armin von Bogdandy and Duncan Kelly. The conference will conclude with a roundtable conversation involving Nathanial Berman, Duncan Bell, David Runciman, Lauren Benton and Shruti Kapila.

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