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date: 09 May 2021

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

The sources of international law have always constituted a thriving field of theoretical and practical enquiry. This Handbook takes stock of those debates and contains fifty-two cutting-edge chapters by fifty-six leading international lawyers and theorists. An introduction co-authored by the two editors sets the scene by identifying the origins, functions, centrality, and limitations of the doctrines of the sources of international law, also addressing some of the main challenges with which they are confronted, as well as presenting the aims of the volume and the chapters that compose it.

The contributions to this volume, published here in English for the first time, address central questions about the sources of international law. The Handbook does neither follow the usual structure of discussions of sources of international law to date nor a source-by-source model. On the contrary, the structure of this volume questions the previous order and presentation of the sources of international law, and focuses on four novel perspectives: the histories, theories, functions, and regimes of sources of international law. Chapters in Part I (Histories) provide detailed and critical accounts of how sources of international law have been conceived by both practitioners and scholars during the history of international law (from the scholastic period to the contemporary anti-formalist era), including a chapter on the history of Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Chapters in Part II (Theories) explore how the main theories of international law have addressed and understood sources of international law. Chapters in Part III (Functions) examine the relationships between the sources of international law and the characteristic features of the international legal order that are or should be related to international law-making. Chapters in Part IV (Regimes) address various questions pertaining to the sources of international law in specific fields of international law. The correspondence or, on the contrary, lack of correspondence between the arguments made in the different sections constitutes one of the innovative features of the Handbook.

Another characteristic of this volume lies in its ‘dialogical’ method: it contains two chapters on each topic, with the author of the second chapter engaging as much as possible with the arguments of the author of the first chapter. Yet, each chapter may also be read independently from the other, as a self-standing contribution to the topic. Cross-fertilization and coherence, as well as the emphasis on discrepancies (p. vi) among the views presented in the volume have been made possible thanks to the excellent and intensive discussions that took place between authors of each pair of chapters and each section of the book, but also across these divisions during the two workshops that were organized in December 2014 and September 2015 in Fribourg.

We wish to thank warmly Dr Sévrine Knuchel, senior research assistant at the University of Fribourg from 2015 to 2018, for her tremendous and unfailing editorial assistance throughout the long process that brought us from the collection of first abstracts to the finalization of fully fledged chapters. Special thanks are also due to Dr Anne-Laurence Graf Brugères for her assistance in the first phase of the project (2013–2014), and especially in drafting the application to the Swiss National Science Foundation and the organization of the first authors’ workshop. We are grateful to Ms Merel Alstein and Mrs Emma Endean-Mills at Oxford University Press for their support and kind forbearance during the long, and sometimes challenging, process of putting this book together. We would also like to thank the University of Fribourg’s Research Pool and the Swiss National Science Foundation for providing vital financial support for the research project as a whole from 2013 to 2018, and especially for two (hopefully memorable!) authors’ workshops we held in Fribourg. Last, but not least, our special thanks are owed to all of our contributors for making this ambitious project such a stimulating, formative, and worthwhile experience. Thinking about sources goes on!

Samantha Besson and Jean d’Aspremont

Fribourg and Manchester, February 2017