- Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Alexander Orakhelashvili
Chapter 12: Periodization and International Law
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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