The History of International Law

This concise timeline maps the broad history of public international law with particular attention paid to the signing of major treaties, the foundation of fundamental institutions, the birth of major figures in international law and milestones in the development of some of the field’s best-known doctrines. There are varying opinions on where to start in the history of international law, as well as arguments around periodising the dynamic developments, though for this project we have started with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. Explore some of the major developments in the history of international law and read more by clicking through to freed-up chapters from the Oxford Historical Treaties, the Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Public International Law, relevant book chapters, blog pieces and journal articles. (Background image: Réception d'un ambassadeur français à Constantinople, Vanmour Jean-Baptiste (1671-1737). (c) RMN-Grand Palais / A. Danvers. Licensed and used with permission.)

Jus Cogens

The concept of a peremptory norm of international law or jus cogens appears for the first time in a treaty

The Treaty of Erzurum

The first serious attempt by the two leading powers of the Middle East – Persia and the Ottoman Empire - to demarcate a precise border

Slave Trade Act 1807

Britain bans the international slave trade in 1807, and the US does so in 1808.

Treaty of Peace between France and Iroquois Indians of the nation of Tsonnot8an [Tsonnotuan]

The first treaty between a European power and a North American indigenous policy

Declaration on the Rights of the Child

League of Nations adopts the first human rights document ever approved by an inter-governmental organization.

International Congress of Women

Less well known then the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conferences. Over a thousand women from 12 countries come together to discuss the Great War.

The Permanent Court of International Justice

The PCIJ issues its first opinion.

Treaty of Amasya

The first treaty between Muslim entities (Ottomans and Safavids).

The ILC Concludes its Work on State Responsibility

45 years of codification work bear fruit.

League of Hanover

An alliance between Louis XV of France, George I of Great Britain/Hanover and Frederick William I of Brandenburg/Prussia

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