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The Internationalists: And Their Plan to Outlaw War

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  327 ratings  ·  64 reviews
A timely and fascinating look at the creation and history of the 1928 Paris Peace Pact—an often overlooked but vital treaty that was created to outlaw wars of aggression and provide the unprecedented stability we live under today.

Everyone knows that our world does not lack for bloody conflict. Yet it’s important to remember that while war was deemed the legitimate means of
Hardcover, 603 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Allen Lane
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Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of history, war, international relations
Recommended to Lord_Humungus by: Steven Pinker
Review in English and Spanish (below)


“The Internationalists” is a history of international laws on war. Steven Pinker recommended it as “one of the most important books on war”. I think Pinker is too honest an intellectual to say something like that about a book only because he is quoted in it, so I’ve read it.

The book’s provocative thesis is that the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928 changed the world. Usually this treaty, also known as the Pact of Paris, is taken as a failed treaty in which t
In 'The Internationalists,' Hathaway and Shapiro make an impassioned argument for the institutionalist school of thought on why there has been so little inter-state war since 1928. They argue that the often-overlooked or trivialized 1928 Kellogg-Briand, or 'peace' pact, is responsible for the long period of peace which we now enjoy. To paraphrase, war is now infrequent because we outlawed it.

The book is interesting, but Hathaway and Shapiro make their case a bit too vigorously, taking some aspec
The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro, is a fascinating look at the evolution of what the authors term "the New World Order." That is defined as an internationally accepted system of global norms related to waging warfare and diplomacy. The authors begin by examining the world of Hugo Grotius, a 17th Century legal scholar who largely began to define international norms on law, warfare, and interaction between states. Gro ...more
I can't recommend this book to the general reader, and international legal specialists are already aware of the arguments presented by the authors. Those with an interest in international affairs and diplomatic history, on the other hand, will find the work fascinating and possibly revelatory. As for me, this is probably the most important book that I have read in the last decade.

The authors document the evolution of international affairs from the time of Grotius to today by focusing on the tran
John Mosman
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Such an interesting book, would you believe war was actually outlawed in 1928? Neither would I, yet it happened. The Peace Pact as sign in that year. We we still have war, your might ask, WWII or Vietnam comes to mind. Prior to 1928, war was legal. If one country invaded another, it was legal and both sides, win or lose, were treated the same regardless of who the aggressor nation. The side who won the war gained legal title of the vanquished countries territory, resources and wealth, along with ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best written book I've read all year. I think it's a great history of the intellectual ideas surrounding interstate conflict between early modern Europe and now. I think its apparently claim that ideas matter more than power is unconvincing, and its analysis of the decline of interstate war is overly simplistic. It's very short discussion of the problems of terrorism doesn't fit well with the rest of the book and is underdeveloped. But it's still a superb read; I enjoyed it so much.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is utterly transformative. The level of detail with which Hathaway and Shapiro approached their task in writing The Internationalists is spellbinding. Not only did they produce a great deal of empirical data, but the book also is sprinkled with asides such as this: "As Nishi Amane would later explain, defending one's borders "is like riding in a third-class train; at first there is adequate space but as more passengers enter there is no space for them to sit."

I learned about how piracy
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History and political nerds
Recommended to James by: Andrew
Shelves: non-fiction, history
It's rare that history books that deal with war cover international law, much less make it the main subject. The changing attitude towards wars of aggression as being the right of nations and the game of kings to being an illegal activity is shown via examples from prior to 1928 when aggressive war was outlawed to post treaty wars with punishment for transgressors like the Nuremberg war trials, economic sanctions, and other non-violent methods. A downside to removing the right of conquest is the ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a bold and interesting idea and a new way to view world history. The premise is that there was a law of war before this particular treaty and then a law of war afterwards and that the law actually mattered. There were obviously exceptions and some transition pains (i.e. WWII in which Germany violated the new rules and Japan believed the old rules to still be viable). The book really makes you see modern warfare differently. You can't just seize territory anymore though it is convenient that ...more
A concise, well researched, easy to read book on the history and current state of the international legal order regarding nations. The authors' general thesis is that the oft-overlooked Kellog Briand Pact (Paris Peace Pact) marked a significant sea change in the ideas and laws governing the relationship of nations -namely that pre-pact the relationship of nations was defined by the legality of war and post-past defined by the outlawing of war). As someone who has worked in international law and ...more
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and amazing.
Lucas Machado
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a must read for anyone who wants to understand the world we live in
Feb 10, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a history book. It is a beautiful theory on international law or international relations. Easy to read and beautifully writen too, but untruthful in historic terms.
The main thesis states that the Briand-Kellog Pact of 1928 succeeded in the way war has been considered afterwards. After it, all wars have been considered to be illegal. If we just consider for a moment the 70 million of violent deaths that happened just a decade after and the cruelty of wars such as Korea, Vietnam of Ir
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a fascinating and unique overview of international history, borders, war and peace from a global perspective. It provides great insight into why the borders on our modern day maps look the way they do today and how we arrived at the international laws that we have today. It puts modern politics and 20th century into perspective. Very glad to have read this. Can’t recommend it enough.
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have studied international law in depth for years, and this book took all of the fun bits and put it together while making a very compelling case for the changing world order since 1928. It is tightly written, interesting, and should be required reading for those who think that international law isn't a thing.
Avi Grumet
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most important book about the World Order that I have read.
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In this extremely well-researched and engagingly-written book, Oona Hathaway and Scot Shapiro provide a wonderful review and analysis of the shift from the Old World Order to the New World Order marked by the signing of the Kellog-Briand (or Peace Pact) of August 28, 1928. International law, for many lay people, is a group of invisible tethers that bind states to policies built on the philosophy of mutual cooperation and security. In fact, so little of international law at work is plainly eviden ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, government
Billed as a history of the Paris Peace Pact of 1928 (or the Kellogg-Briand Pact as it is more commonly known in America), Hathaway and Shapiro's work is much more detailed charting the formation of the early modern international order in the sixteenth century to the twentieth century postwar order that endures to this day. The Internationalists can be broadly divided into three major areas of study: the creation of the Old World Order (or the order of the Realists), the turning against this syst ...more
John Aggrey Odera
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-writers
The key idea behind the book is that ideas shape law, and that law informs power, ergo ideas matter. Hathaway and Shapiro tell the story of international law, starting from 1603, when Hugo Grotius, then only twenty two, was brought forward to write a defense for his cousin, Jacob van Heemskerck, who had seized the Portuguese frigate Santa Catarina. International law, they contend, has had two timelines, the first beginning in 1625 when Grotius published his “Laws of War and Peace”, ideas about w ...more
Chris Damon
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I recall the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact to Outlaw War was almost universally viewed derisively as the ultimate in fanciful wishful thinking undertaken by hopelessly idealistic striped-pants diplomats living in denial of the world’s harsh realities and engaging in a fantasy, of a piece with Neville Chamberlain’s naivete. What more proof is needed of the treaty’s absurdity than that a decade later the most destructive war in human history broke out?

Yet this very inte
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding and highly insightful description for the lay reader of a greatly overlooked and misunderstood historical event, the Kellogg-Briand Pact (aka the Paris Peace Pact). This is revisionist history, but of the best kind; the authors painstakingly outline (with thorough documentation), how the Pact, far from being a failure, was actually a pivotal event in world history, the moment where the old rules of Might makes Right gave way to a new understanding of Right makes Might. In fact, th ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book manages to be a lot more interesting than it looks, right in the broad thrust of its argument, and engagingly wrong about the importance of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

What’s it about? Contrary to appearance, it doesn’t focus narrowly on the idealists who moved to outlaw war following World War I. It spends a lot more time looking at how interstate war was permitted as a means of resolving disputes, and the role of Hugo Grotius in developing an intellectual framework around it. It’s more
Andrew Pfannkuche
A well written and uninspired look into the current thoughts of the American neoliberal elite. Hathaway and Shapiro have clearly done their homework. The book provides interesting historical cases of several individuals (not all of them respected by the authors) who laid the groundwork for the new world order we currently inhabit that made war illegal. They also provide an interesting look at the international legal theory and provide concrete and understandable examples, and for that, the book ...more
Jeffrey Ling
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating view on world history through the lens of the Peace Pact -- the first treaty to outlaw war. The book explains that national disputes in pre-modern times were resolved by war, which consequently allowed nations to engage in the policies of colonization, empire-building, and conquest. However, it was through the Peace Pact after WWI and the development of the United Nations after WWII that war in this sense was banned. As a result, inter-country war today is uncommon, and conflicts a ...more
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engrossing and educational book detailing an aspect of modern life that I think MANY, MANY people don't realize about the world today.

100 years ago, it was permissible to wage an aggressive war against another country. Today, and since 1945, if not 1928, aggressive war is contrary to int'l law. And all the consequences of this prohibition of that which was previously perfectly permissible, legal, and regulated.

I would recommend to anyone interested in international law, or armed conflict, o
Kian Williams
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Contrary to the description, The Internationalists is not primarily about the negotiation of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand pact, nor only about the movement to ban war; rather, it is a brief history of international law, a description of how such law is formulated and changes, and a discussion on why inter-state war and conquest has been so greatly reduced since the end of WWII. These are fascinating topics I hadn't previously thought to learn about, rich with interesting anecdotes (how early internat ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone alive should read this book.

The authors begin by describing "The Old World Order" in which war was seen as an effective and allowable method for achieving political and social ends. They then tell the story of a 1928 treaty of which I had never heard that actually outlawed war. They trace this "New World Order" through its ineffectual years under the League of Nations and then recount how it grew in effectiveness under the UN, especially through the substitution of economic "ou-casting"
Matthew Rohn
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book does does great history, theory work, and contemporary application about international law in regards to war throughout the modern era, centering on the Kellogg-Briand Pact. It's really engaging all the way through and does an amazing job of creating a clear sense of change in the overarching world system in a way that only a very small handful of books I've read have come close to. This would have been an amazing book at any time but is particularly important now given the current adm ...more
Yen Ba
Jul 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yen Ba by: YLS because they thought I was going to go there
Shelves: non-fiction, law
Good enough book that I regret not getting in touch with Scott Schapiro while I could have (plus his Twitter is hilarious). An original and overall convincing argument about the importance of international institution, the state as a political unit, and the shift in the significance of war as a tool to govern states' behavior. The examples, drawn from all times and places in world history, were sweeping, which at times add to the argument, and other times weaken it due to the questionable use of ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and structured. Their argument that the pact helped shift values, justifications, and international political discourse is overwhelming. However, their attempt to move that that shift in rhetoric and stated values was the largest proximate cause of the decline of interstate warfare after 1928 feels incomplete and reaching. Still, it is a must-read for anyone interested in geopolitics/IR. The book certainly should prevent the pact from being the further object of ridicule as it has b ...more
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Oona A. Hathaway is the Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law and Counselor to the Dean at the Yale Law School. She is also Professor of International Law and Area Studies at the Yale University MacMillan Center, on the faculty at the Jackson Institute for International Affairs, and Professor of the Yale University Department of Political Science. She is a member of th ...more

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52 likes · 18 comments
“On lawyering: When the law is on your side, pound the law; when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; when neither is on your side, pound the table” 5 likes
“Schmitt denounced outlawry in the same building in which Shotwell had proposed it. It is absurd, Schmitt claimed in his lecture at the Hochschule für Politik, for states to renounce war. As nice as it sounded—and it was dangerous in no small part because it sounded so nice—outlawry is an impossibility. To think that war can be outlawed is to misunderstand politics. Politics presupposes the very possibility of war. A state that outlaws war outlaws itself. This claim sounds just like the sort of crude militarism one would expect from a Nazi. But Schmitt was not a Nazi at this point and, although he would later join the party, he was no ideologue of National Socialism. His objection was not founded in a glorification of violence, but rather on a dark, but deep, vision of politics. According to Schmitt, the world of politics (or as he calls it, following the German, “the Political”) is not defined by its subject. Political disputes can break out over any issue. What defines the Political is its intensity: The more intense the struggle, the more political the dispute. “The political,” Schmitt wrote, “is the most intense and extreme antagonism.” 0 likes
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