The course will offer a history of the role of legal thought in international politics from the late middle ages (1300) to the present. It examines legal thought in its context, as part of religious, economic and ideological projects that often coincide with efforts to strengthen the power of particular (European) nations vis-a-vis each other but also in the colonies. From the debates over the power of the church vs. the emperor in the late middle ages the course will move to the views of the Spanish scholastics in the 16th and early 17th centuries concerning empire and lawful forms of economic and State power (dominium). These views of the Dutchman Hugo Grotius will be linked to his efforts to defend and strengthen Dutch commercial power in the East Indies. Catholic and Protestant views on international lawfulness are located in their theological context.
The emergence of a university discipline called "natural law and the law of nations" will be read as an offshoot of debates over the nature of the Holy Roman Empire in the middle of the 17th century. This will be compared with the rise of a "Public law of Europe" in 18th century in the context of Francophone ideologies of the enlightenment. The course will then follow the transformation of "the law of nature and of nations" in late-18th century Germany and Scotland into the discipline of political economy. There will be a discussion of the birth of "modern" international law through professionalization in the last third of the 19th century. This will be followed by a discussion of the principal streams of inter-war legal thought in Britain, France, and Germany. The course will end with a brief discussion of the changes in international law's role from the cold war to "globalization."