Program in the History and Theory of International Law



About the Program...

This Program encourages scholarship and teaching on topics in the history and theory of international law that are vital to deepening an understanding of the field. The premise of the Program is that the future development of international law depends on sustained theoretical work, including careful historical study, and that collective efforts are needed to enhance worldwide research and teaching in these areas. The Program holds periodic conferences and workshops, sponsors a refereed working paper series, hosts visiting fellows (including faculty from other disciplines, and post-docs), supports research and publications, provides a center bringing together people interested in these fields, and each year offers a set of courses in these areas at the Law School.


Gentili Conference

Commemorative Conference on Alberico Gentili Participants: Liliana Obregón (Bogotá , Colombia), Ileana Porrás (Arizona), Petter Korkman (Helsinki), Martti Koskenniemi (NYU/Helsinki), Robert Howse (NYU) and Jane Burbank (NYU History).


The Program is directed by Professor Benedict Kingsbury in cooperation with Hauser Global Law Professor Martti Koskenniemi, and NYU Law Professor Robert Howse. They are assisted by Dr. Benjamin Straumann, whose work at NYU is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Professor Kingsbury’s seminar on the history and theory of international law focuses on the development of ideas of international law in Western traditions of political and legal thought over the period 1500-1800 (Vitoria, Gentili, Grotius, Hobbes, Pufendorf, Vattel, Rousseau, Kant etc), then on the interaction of these ideas with practice during periods of U.S. and European expansion and international institutionalization.

Professor Koskenniemi is Academy Professor of International Law at the University of Helsinki and Global Professor at NYU School of Law. He teaches a full course in the NYU Law School periodically (most recently in the Fall 2010 session), and visits NYU frequently for other events. He periodically teaches a course on International Law and Politics, related to the publication by Cambridge University Press in 2006 of the second edition of his book From Apology to Utopia.  Professor Koskenniemi’s course on the history and practice of international law since 1870, further developing themes in his prize winning book The Gentle Civilizer of Nations, is offered periodically.   [Post-Doctoral Opportunities in Helsinki: Between Restoration and Revolution, National Constitutions and Global Law: an Alternative View on the European Century 1815-1914 (EReRe)]

Professor Howse's course on History and Theory of International Law, offered regularly, focuses on roles of law in sustaining peace and stability, and the meaning or possibility of "global democracy" and "global justice". Particular attention is paid to the writings of Thucydides, Grotius, Vattel, Rousseau and Kant; and twentieth century readings from works by Alexandre Kojeve, Carl Schmitt, and Leo Strauss.

Professors Benedict Kingsbury and Joseph Weiler, periodically offer an IILJ International Law Theory Seminar. This is focused in different semesters on the theory of global governance, international law and human nature, and on interpretation and judgment in international law. Another iteration of the IILJ International Law Theory Seminar, concentrates on modern theories of international law, but includes also discussions of traditions connected with Bentham and Madison.

The IILJ International Legal Theory Colloquium is convened in the Spring semester by Professors Kingsbury and Weiler. Leading scholars come to the Colloquium to discuss their work with faculty, visiting scholars and students. Recent speakers have included Jeremy Waldron, Catharine MacKinnon, Beth Simmons, Richard Stewart, Sungjoon Cho, Rob Howse, Martti Koskenniemi, Jose Alvarez, Ryan Goodman, Sally Engle Merry, Chris McCrudden, and Stephen Gardbaum. Papers and programs for each year are available on the IILJ website.

The Hauser Globalization Colloquium in Fall 2010 is taught by Professors Ryan Goodman and Robert O. Keohane. It brings together leading scholars integrating work in international law, international relations, sociology, and psychology, with very active student participation.

Additional courses are taught periodically by Professors Jose Alvarez, David Golove, Ryan Goodman, Robert Howse, Mattias Kumm, Liam Murphy and Joseph Weiler, as well as Global and Adjunct faculty. Participants in other program activities have included scholars such as Professors Philip Allott (Cambridge), David Armitage (Harvard), Charles Beitz (Princeton), Lauren Benton (NYU History), Jane Burbank (NYU History), Andrew Hurrell (Oxford), Karen Knop (Toronto), Jennifer Pitts (Chicago), and Masaharu Yanagihara (Kyushu).

Workshops convened by the Program have discussed: methodologies in biographic approaches to the history of international law; NYU Professor Thomas Nagel's work on global justice; Grotius' concept of the state of nature in the era of Dutch expansion and relations between trade, natural resource extraction and violence



The Program hosts visitors who are in residence for one semester or for the academic year.

See list of the current and former Visiting Fellows. Also see the Visiting Doctoral Researchers currently here and from past years.

About Visiting Fellowships

Graduate Student Conference at Harvard




malksoo presentation

Program in the History and Theory of International Law Workshop to discuss a paper presented by Lauri Malksoo (center front).  Front: Professor Jennifer Pitts ( Chicago Politics), Jane Burbank (NYU History), Lauri Malksoo (Tartu, Estonia), Martti Koskenniemi (NYU/Helsinki), Benedict Kingsbury (NYU), Back: NYU Law Graduate Students and Visiting Scholars – Katie Gustafson, James Cockayne, Benjamin Straumann, Robert Dufresne, Nehal Bhuta, Vik Kanwar, Margaret Young.