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International law was born from the impulse to 'civilize' late nineteenth-century attitudes towards race and society, argues Martti Koskenniemi in this fascinating and highly readable study of the rise and fall of modern international law.
In a work of immense intellectual scope, 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 Hersch Lauterpacht, Carl Schmitt and Hans Morgenthau); he also considers the role of crucial institutions (such as the Institut de droit international and the League of Nations).
His discussion of legal and political realism at American law schools ends in a critique of post-1960 'instrumentalism'. Along with the book's other chapters, this provides a unique reflection on the possibility of critical international law today.