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date: 08 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that the question of periodization belongs to the most fundamental and most underestimated questions of historiography of international law. Periods are more than the working tools they are often regarded as being in practice. Periodizations are part of the interpretation of the world and connected to one’s interests and values. Periodization of the past is therefore always also contemporary history. Attempts to establish new periods are attempts to re-shape the present by changing the view of the past and to write a new genealogy of the contemporary world. Periodizations say as much about those who periodize as about those who lived in the past. Metaphorically speaking, periodizations always have two masters: the knowledge of the past, and the self-perception of the society of the historian who asks about its origins and its role in history.

Keywords: international law, historiography, contemporary history, periodization

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