International law is enjoying increasing popularity among historians of global and international affairs, due to a re-reading of legal norms and rules that questions a state-centered approach. Instead of seeing law as an outcome of state behavior, recent scholarship has examined the transnational character of law and legal communities, and the oftentimes complex negotiation processes that precede the codification and subsequent ratification of international conventions. This perspective aligns with the focus on border-crossing relations and on professional and nonstate actors and institutions that has become essential to global and international history. Moreover, connections forged between the history of international law and discussions of the limits of legal universalism have increased the legal dimension’s relevance for historians of empire and decolonization. Encircling notions of hegemony, imperialism, and civilization, and scrutinizing the role of international law in imperial and civilizing missions, this strand of research has given rise to regional histories of international law.
Scholars have begun to explore the relationship between legal and regional developments by asking how international law has been tailored to serve specific regional interests, problems, or conflicts. This approach complements the focus on the law’s imperial bias and acknowledges the entanglement of legal and political agendas while also emphasizing the agency of regional actors. It also concedes that regional appropriations of international law could serve these actors’ own agendas or be a vehicle for emancipation.
The workshop unites research on the history of international law with studies on Eastern Europe to investigate the controversial role of international law in the complex and contentious reordering of the region since the Congress of Vienna. The workshop proposes that the extraordinary density of political, social and ethnic conflicts and the decades-long struggles over territorial boundaries in Eastern Europe have left clear traces in international law. More specifically, the workshop addresses these issues through the lens of international institutions, which offer a starting point from which to identify topics; single out involved states, groups, and transnational actors from East Central and Eastern Europe; and reveal how regional constellations were universalized in the process of negotiating and implementing international norms and rules.
The workshop stems from a research project at the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) that deals with processes of juridification in international relations. The project advances the argument that the history of conflict in Eastern Europe has shaped modern international law to a significant degree. This contention holds for the results of the Crimean War (1854–1856) and the regulations formulated by the Congress of Berlin (1878), as well as for minority protections after World War I and the status of the Free City of Danzig, to mention a few examples. The main output of the research group will be “Law and History in Eastern Europe,” a three-part handbook to be published by de Gruyter in 2020. The handbook’s second part seeks to illuminate the relationship between law and international institutions from an Eastern Europe perspective. To this end, workshop participants might contribute chapters to the handbook.
The workshop welcomes contributions that cover the 19th and 20th centuries. Papers should focus either on legal issues in international institutions in Eastern Europe, or on the representation of Eastern Europeans in international institutions concerned with international law. Regarding subject matter, we invite papers presenting case studies from within the region that also connect to the wider topic of the legal transformation of international relations. Inter-regional comparisons are particularly welcome.
Participants are asked to submit their papers no later than two weeks before the start of the workshop. The workshop will be held on 28 and 29 September 2017 at the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) in Leipzig, Germany. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered. Please send your proposal (max. 750 words) and a short CV by 10 March 2017 to Isabella.email@example.com.