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SEMINAR | The Sources of 19th Century International Law: The Myth of Positivism



Start Date

2nd Nov 2016 1:00pm

Institute for the Study of Social Change logo

An Institute for the Study of Social Change and School of Social Sciences seminar

presented by

Professor Miloš Vec, Vienna University

My talk analyzes sources of international law in the 19th century European tradition. It includes scholars and theorists from a range of nationalities (German, English, American, French, Italian, Suisse, Austrian, Dutch, Belgian, Danish, Portuguese, Russian-Estonian, Chilean, Argentinean), different professions and perspectives, focusing on selected authors from various European and American countries and regions between 1815 and 1914. These jurists, philosophers, political writers and theologians discussed the notion of “source” and elaborated extensively on a theory of sources. Such elaborations could be found then in all contemporary textbooks in a great variety, but no consensus was found. Terminology changed as much as the canon of sources did from author to author. Despite claims to the contrary, natural law was not excluded from the list of international law’s sources. Indeed, close entanglements between natural law (in different varieties) and positive law were claimed by 19th international lawyers. Even divine law was sometimes explicitly named as a source when debating international law’s normativity. This had often to do with their linking of international law to various kinds of morality. Within this canon of sources, no clear hierarchy existed, no rules for the collision of different kind of sources were posited. The field thus remained very flexible for attaining any results when debating regulatory matters although the authors claimed to be non-political.

A B O U T   T H E   P R E S E N T E R
Miloš Vec is Professor of European Legal and Constitutional History at Vienna University and a Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM). He received his Habilitation in Legal History, Philosophy of Law, Theory of Law, and Civil Law from Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Until 2012 he worked at the Max-Planck-Institute for European Legal History and taught at the Universities of Bonn, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Konstanz, Lyon, Tübingen, and Vilnius. Awards include: Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, 1989–1991; Otto Hahn Medal of Max-Planck-Society, 1997; Appointment as founding member of The Young Academy at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, 2000, Walter Kalkhof-Rose Memorial Award of the Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz, 2006; Academy Award of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 2008; Fellow to the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, 2011/2012; Teaching Award 2015 of Vienna University. Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) since Jan 1st 2016. His main research interests are the history of international law and multi-normativity.

Books on the History of International Law

  • "The Transformation of Foreign Policy: Drawing and Managing Boundaries”, ed. by Andreas Fahrmeir, Gunther Hellmann, and Miloš Vec, Oxford University Press 2016.
  • “Paradoxes of Peace in 19th Century Europe”, ed. by Thomas Hippler and Miloš Vec, Oxford University Press 2015.
  • “Constructing International Law – The Birth of a Discipline”, ed. by Luigi Nuzzo and Miloš Vec, Frankfurt am Main 2012.
  • "Völkerrecht und Weltwirtschaft im 19. Jahrhundert“, ed. by Rainer Klump and Miloš Vec, Baden-Baden 2012.
  • "Les conflits entre peuples. De la résolution libre à la résolution imposée“, ed. by Serge Dauchy and Miloš Vec, Baden-Baden 2011.

Wednesday 2 November 2016, 1.00pm

Harvard Lecture Theatre 1, Centenary Building, Sandy Bay Campus

This is a free seminar and everyone is welcome no attend. There is no need to RSVP but please email if you require directions to the venue.

Event Flyer (PDF 395KB)