A big event from History (not again!). The Peace of Westphalia is one big event which paved the way for a big change in Europe. It brought a change in the political order (setup) in Europe. The older Empire States gave way to new smaller Secular States.
The Peace was the end point of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) in the Holy Roman Empire and the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic (The 20 th Century World Wars seems to be belittled, right?)
The Peace of Westphalia actually refers to the signing of certain treaties:
- The Peace of Munster (between the Dutch and Spain)
- The Treaty of Munster (between the Roman Emperor and France and their allies)
- The Treaty of Osnabruck (between the Roman Emperor and Sweden and their allies)
The signing of the Treaties saw an end to the savage wars in Europe and paved the way for national rule partly reducing the power of the monarchical rule.
It resulted in the identification of States separate from the Emperor or ruler. I would say it resulted in the birth of Modern International Law or the so-called “Eurocentric” international Law. It divided the international law regime (a fancy word for system/method) into two; Pre Westphalia and Post Westphalia.
It witnessed the birth of the State system. The history of international law is not told without mentioning Westphalia. Because this incident gave birth to the primary subjects of international law:
Sorry folks. As with all legal words, no “genius” has been able to define “international law” COMPLETELY. It is because when it comes to law almost everyone’s eager to define one thing or the other and they either over do it or they fall short of a good definition. (You see, once there was a discussion in a case (Whicker v. Hume (1858)) about the definition of permanent home and the judge remarked: “If you do not know what one means by “permanent home” no illustration of foreign writers would help you”…sheesh)
Well, most definitions given by many scholars has not been able to cover all its aspects. It is also because of the developing nature of, not just international law, but all positive law. (“Positive law” simply means man made law)
Anyway, it was good ol’ Jeremy Bentham, who actually coined the term “international law” in 1780. Now there’s a dispute or difference of opinion (there’s no end to this, is there?) among scholars as to what name suits this body of laws: Public International Law or Modern International Law (because there’s a dispute as to the origin of international law) or Law of Nations. Well, atleast I hope you get what is referred to when the phrase “International Law” is mentioned.
L. Oppenheim – He, in 1905, gave a definition which inspired a lot of the modern jurists (law scholars) to give definitions of international law. He was not the first to define international law (It was also defined in some English cases), but still, he said:
“Law of nations or International Law is the name for the body of customary and conventional rules which are considered legally binding by civillised states in their intercourse with each other.” [Oppenheim, International Law (New York, Longmans, Green & Co., 1905) pp. 1-2]
Now this is a good definition, isn’t it? For a book in 1905, it was a wonderful definition. I personally think this definition is still cool, except for certain parts of it. Namely, using the term “civillised states.” You see, there is no such thing as a civillised state. This term was used to refer to Christianised States of the middle ages and post 17th-18th century Christian nations. But currently, this term is not used now. And also, there’s a criticism on including only “States”. What about international organisations and individuals? Don’t they have rights and duties in international law? But still, Oppenheim is a celebrated author of international law.
Later this definition was discarded due to many reasons. Mainly:
1) States (or as we normally say, Countries) are not the only entities which are governed or affected by International Law.
2) As international law developed, it was not just customary and conventional rules which were international law, but also some general principles of law, judicial decisions, teachings of jurists etc became international law.
3) Then as I’ve already said, the use of the phrase “civillised states” is no longer in use; in practice.
Later a lot of Jurists came in with various definitions. But currently let us not go in to that. And let us try to define IL by ourselves:
“It is the set of laws which govern the transactions and relations, between the entities of the world, but excluding transactions purely governed by municipal law (Laws inside a State (Country))”
Not such a great definition, but you get the idea.
Oi, ye venturer into the sea of international law, this is your navigator speaking. For those who recently fell in love with IL or for those who got stuck somewhere along the way or for those who want to refer, climb aboard this vessel.
Forgive me for writing the above paragraph. Let me put this in a simple way. This blog is an attempt to simplify International Law; from greek to english (I meant simple). It is alleged that international lawyers are responsible for the confusion created in IL jurisprudence. Well, this is an attempt to rectify that shame.
Here, you would find a collection of posts on issues both old and new regarding international law, simplified.
I can’t be clearer than this, can I? Well, read on.