eCite Digital Repository

Ambivalence, anxieties / Adaptations, advances: Conceptual History and International Law


Clark, M, Ambivalence, anxieties / Adaptations, advances: Conceptual History and International Law, Leiden Journal of International Law, 31, (4) pp. 747-771. ISSN 1478-9698 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law

DOI: doi:10.1017/S0922156518000432


Scholars of the history of international law have recently begun to wonder whether their work is predominantly about law or history. The questions we ask – about materials, contexts and movements – all raise intractable problems of historiography. Yet, few scholars have turned to historical theory to think through how we might go about addressing them.

This article works towards remedying that gap by exploring why and how we might engage with historiography more deeply.

Section 2 shows how the last three decades of the ‘turn to history’ can be usefully read as a move from ambivalence to anxiety. The major works of the 2000s thoroughly removed the pre-1990s ambivalence to history, offering brief considerations about method. Recent efforts building on those works have led to the present era of anxiety about both history and method, raising questions around materials, contexts and movements. But far from a negative state, this moment of anxiety is both appropriate and potentially creative: it prompts us to rethink our mode of engaging with historiography.

Section 3 explores how this engagement might proceed. It reconstructs the principles and debates within conceptual history around the anxieties of materials, contexts and movements. It then explores how these might be adapted to histories of international law, both generally and within one concrete project: a conceptual history of recognition in the writings of British jurists.

Section 4 concludes by considering the advances achieved by this kind of engagement, and reflects on new directions for international law and its histories.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:historiography, interdisciplinary engagements, international legal history, method, Reinhart Koselleck
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:International and comparative law
Research Field:International criminal law
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in law and legal studies
UTAS Author:Clark, M (Mr Martin Clark)
ID Code:140560
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Law
Deposited On:2020-08-27
Last Modified:2020-09-22

Repository Staff Only: item control page