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date: 06 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter maintains that no serious theory of the sources of international law can avoid what professional historians now take for granted: namely, that historical knowledge is necessarily political. It begins by laying out this argument, before assessing its implications for mainstream accounts of the sources of international law. The chapter goes on to explore a recent legal conflict in which history figured in order to test and improve the claim that history is political. It looks at the recent contention in US courts interpreting the Alien Tort Statute (1789) about whether a norm of corporate liability for atrocity crimes is part of customary international law. Finally, the chapter concludes that this fascinating instance of the uses of history in the ascertainment of the requirements of international law fits well the theory that historical knowledge is ineradicably political, though contained by professionalism.

Keywords: Conflict of laws, Choice of law, General principles of international law

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