Max HuberOn the Place of the Law of Nations in the History of Mankind

Max Huber, ‘On the Place of the Law of Nations in the History of Mankind’ in Symbolae Verzijl: Présentées Au Professeur J.H.W. Verzijl à l’Occasion de son LXX-Ième Anniversaire (Martinus Nijhoff, Law Haye 1958) pp. 190-195.

Background

The extract is a contribution by Max Huber to a Symbolae for the Dutch professor J.H.W Verzijl a prominent figure in international law who published the mammoth International Law in Historical Perspective in an attempt to document the history of the origins and development of international law in European practice; focusing specifically on the states practice rather than other authors analysis. The piece was written after a turbulent period in international affairs, the first half of the twentieth century had been scared by two world wars. The international legal regime that was born out of the ashes of the Second World War was supposed to ensure that the world would never again witness such destruction however the animosity between the United States of America and the Soviet Union had divided the world down the middle.

Summary

In his contribution Max Huber discusses the historical roots of the Law of Nations tracing the origins of legal relationships between peoples, or their rulers, to the sixteenth century. Huber credits the acceleration of technology and communication, that begun around the time of the discovery of America, as facilitating an examination of international law on a scientific level. The coexistence of sovereign states that had been the staple of state relations was brought to an end by two world wars and in its place was formed a community of nations with enforceable laws. Huber identifies the rise of China and Islam as well as widespread European colonisation as the three factors that have determined the new legal relationship between states. He notes that by 1900 the globe was divided between the colonial empires creating a tapestry of sovereign states across the world that became interconnected with mere coexistence impossible. Huber cautions that the weak solidarity between nations makes conflict an ever present threat with technological advances meaning the results are ever more devastating. In his conclusion Huber emphasises the importance of world peace upon every individual state and the central role that international law must play in achieving it.

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