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Lecture | Contemporary History and International Relations Research Seminar (CHIRRS)

'Living and Dying in International Law: Austria-Hungary in the Legal History of Decolonization'

  • Natasha Wheatley (Sydney)
Monday 27 March 2017
Contemporary History and International Relations Research Seminar (CHIRRS) year 2016 - 2017
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference room (2.60)

This talk presents the legal debates surrounding the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy as a foundational jurisprudence of decolonization – one that prefigured and shaped juridical accounts of the global collapse of empire after the Second World War. In so doing, it pursues a new history of 1919 more attentive to the intellectual (and not only diplomatic and political) consequences of the interwar settlement, and connects histories of imperial collapse inside and outside Europe. The dissolution of imperial order in Central Europe drove claim-makers, peacemakers, and jurists to compose searching new accounts of the resurrection of historic states and their re-entry into the domain of international law. Disagreement over whether Czechoslovakia, Hungary, republican Austria and Yugoslavia constituted “old” or “new” states had widespread political-legal consequences – not least regarding the succession of rights (especially to territory) and debts (especially reparations) – but also profound intellectual consequences. How could international law identify and analyse the birth and death of states when their existence formed the a priori of international law itself? A formal reckoning with the beginnings and ends of international legal life pushed scholars up against the conditions of possibility of their own discipline, and recast the horizons of what was “knowable” in international law as a result.

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