Research Handbook on the Theory and History of International Law
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Research Handbook on the Theory and History of International Law

Edited by Alexander Orakhelashvili

This pioneering Research Handbook, with contributions from renowned experts, provides a comprehensive scholarly framework for analyzing the theory and history of international law. Given the multiplication of theoretical approaches over the last three decades, and attendant fragmentation of scholarly efforts, this edited collection presents a useful doctrinal platform that will help academics and students to see the theory and history of international law in its entirety, and to understand how interdependent various aspects of the theory and history of international law really are.
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Chapter 12: Periodization and International Law

William E. Butler


William E. Butler Periodization may be understood as an analytical prism through which times past are organized into meaningful clusters in order to better understand the reasons for the occurrence of events or trends. In its most basic sense the past might be divided into the categories by which we measure the passage of time: seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries, millennia, and so on. This is not normally feasible or even necessarily helpful in understanding larger issues of the past, however. More helpful, and assuredly more widely practised, is grouping periods of the passage of time for analytical purposes into segments or blocks that distinguish one from the other.1 With respect to the law of nations it is suggested that there are three separate domains that require their own analytical separation and periodization2 in order to be meaningfully comprehended. These are: the origins and development of individual rules or norms; the origins and development of the recognition by subjects of international law of these individual rules or norms to constitute a system of law; and the origins and development of conceptions or ideas of the law of nations devised or elaborated by individual natural persons in the form of doctrines of international law. These domains would all fall into what Philip Allott has characterized as the ‘intrinsic’ history of international law.3 12.1 ON THE ROLE OF PERIODIZATION The general literature on periodization as such is not as substantial as might be expected and not surprisingly has occupied...

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