Public Lecture by Jennifer Pitts (Chicago): Empires and the Law of Nations: A Contribution to the Critical History of International Law
International law is in important respects a product of the history of European commercial and imperial expansion, and it proved a powerful discourse in that context, supplying both justifications and criticisms of imperial actions, as recent scholarship has shown. Law of nations discourse could also efface the imperial aspect of European states and deny theoretical space for the consideration of imperial violence, by conceptualizing states as territorially compact nations rather than the global empires that the most powerful of them were, and by misleadingly depicting the international realm as a community of free and equal nations. This talk considers the relationship between empire and international law in the work of the two European political and legal thinkers who had, arguably, the greatest global influence in the first decades of the nineteenth century, Emer de Vattel and Jeremy Bentham, and some implications for later understandings of international law and the extra-European world.
About the lecturer:
Jennifer Pitts is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She is author of A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton 2005) and editor and translator of Alexis de Tocqueville: Writings on Empire and Slavery (Johns Hopkins 2001). She is currently working on a book, tentatively entitled Boundaries of the International, which explores European debates over legal relations with extra-European societies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Location: Faculty of Law, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, room A.009
Time: 22 January, 15.30h-17.00h.