The Research Project Europe 1815-1914

P.O. Box 24
Unioninkatu 40
FI-00014 University of Helsinki




The programme is continuously updated. New events might be advertised with short notice. External participants are welcome but preferably on a regular basis. Since the number of seats is limited pre-registration with project coordinator Minna Vainio (minna.vainio[at] is requested.

January 2011
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6

Jörg Fisch (University of Zurich), International Law and 19th Century Colonialism

In today's seminar, Jörg Fisch, professor of modern history at the University of Zurich and co-editor of the Neue Fischer Weltgeschichte, whose focus of research is on the history of international law and international relations, provided an overview of legal aspects of European colonialism from the 15th to the 19th century. Reflecting the main results both of his path-breaking work on Die europäische Expansion und das Völkerrecht. Die Auseinandersetzungen um den Status der überseeischen Gebiete vom 15. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart (published in 1984) and more recent research, Prof. Fisch particularly called into question the widespread thesis of "No peace beyond the line", implying a fundamental difference between Europe and the "rest" (i.e. the extra-European colonial space). He argued that the idea of the colonies' legal status being fundamentally different from the continent was tenable neither empirically nor systematically, and stressed that that it was particularly the colonies that were often declared "neutral" in conflicts between the European powers. In this context, Prof. Fisch also called into question Carl Schmitt's well-known paradigm of an effective Hegung des Krieges ("confinement of war") through a functioning Jus Publicum Europaeum until the end of the 19th century, allowing for European peace by the means of an externalisation of war to the colonies.

Following the presentation, a lively debate ensued, revolving, among other things, around the question as to how Fisch's – by then new and innovative – approach was received within the field of International Law in the 1980s, and how he would position himself to the most recent results of (post-)colonial research. Other issues that were raised concerned potential differences between various colonial spaces over time, and the scope as well as immanent ambivalences of Fisch's notion of "neutrality".

25 Jan
Legal Thought reading seminar: Savigny's 'Beruf' and the German historical school of law, Kaius Tuori

Members of the research project met for the first session of the reading seminar on legal thought. The seminar, led by Kaius Tuori Senior Researcher at the Center of Excellence in Global Governance Research in Helsinki, focused on Friedrich Karl von Savigny's 1814 Vom Berufunserer Zeit für Gesetzgebung and Rechtswissenschaft (On the Vocation of Our Age for Legislation and Jurisprudence) and other texts from the German historical school of law. Tuori began by claiming that Savigny´s contemporary understanding is mediated by the extensive scholarship produced by twentieth-century legal scholars Paul Koschaker and Franz Wieacker who, despite their vast learning, left us a narrow view of Savigny´s undertaking and the goals of the historical school. Thus, instead of focusing on Savigny's polemics against Thibaut over the possibility of a code for the German states, Touri proposed to examine Savigny's language in order to clarify his assumptions, methods and aims. During his presentation, Touri examined what he called original and problematic concepts, meaning those concepts for which Savigny had provided very specific technical definitions –Volk, Geschichte, system and Wissenschaft—and those which he left more or less undefined and thus operated more freely, embedded in polemics and plural understandings. After the presentation, discussion centered on the politics of Savigny, the reception of his work outside Germany and challenges and promises of a broader, more comprehensive intellectual history.

27 Jan
Legal Thought reading seminar: John Austin's The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, Martti koskenniemi

The second session of the legal thought reading seminar was focused on John Austin´s (1790-1859) Province of Jurisprudence Determined (PJD -1832) as taken from H.L.A Hart´s re-edition of 1954. As a supportive text, seminar participants also read the chapter 'John Austin's Analytical Jurisprudence' from Michael Lobban´s The Common Law and English Jurisprudence 1760-1850 (1991). Austin´s work was presented by project director Martti Koskenniemi.

Koskenniemi began by clarifying that Austin´s PJD received many contradictory secondary interpretations. Consequently, Austin´s prestige rose and fell several times since the PJD´s first publication. To place Austin´s work in context, Koskenniemi pointed out that England was a "wasteland" in terms of legal theory during the early nineteenth century, in stark contrast to Germany´s thriving legal culture. Therefore, Austin´s purpose was to write an essay on the study of jurisprudence so that there would be a more intellectual understanding of law that at that time was limited to a professional practice. In this way, Austin wanted jurisprudence to be studied as a category of a legal system. Unfortunately, for Austin, his teaching experience became a great disappointment despite being named University College London´s first professor of jurisprudence in 1826 and having his inaugural lecture of 1829 well attended, including J. Stuart Mill himself. Thereafter, his courses were not popular with students and by 1835 he resigned his chair. However, his written lectures were the source for the PJD published in 1832 though it only sparked interest after his death. Austin´s views were centerpiece discussion for a century, until HLA Hart´s Concept of the Law of 1961 criticized Austin´s claims that all laws are coercive orders from a sovereign that impose duties or obligations on individuals. Hart argued that there are laws that apply to those individuals who enact them and laws that confer powers or privileges. Both scholars permanently entered the Anglosaxon canon of legal theory that today continues to be taught as composed of the works of only four authors: Austin, Hart, Kelsen and Dworkin.

With respect to the PJD, Koskenniemi described Austin´s idea of a legal system and the key notions of the sovereign and the four types of law: God´s laws, positive opinion, "laws-metaphorically-speaking" and "laws-properly-so-called." Laws-properly so-called are commands from a legally unlimited sovereign, superior to the three other types of laws. From this division comes the "Austinian challenge" placed by Austin when he defined international law as "positive morality." Since then, the Austinian challenge has been taken up by many international lawyers and scholars who argue that international law is law. Koskenniemi also emphasized that in the nineteenth century the "will theory" underlined Austin´s legal thought and all of his contemporaries (see Duncan Kennedy´s Three Globalizations...). For Austin, law emanated from the sovereign, defined as one who exercises superior power in an independent political society. Therefore, the law was derived from the sovereign´s will in order to define the exercise of individual's will through the law. For Austin, laws are commands, and rights are linked to duty and the legal system provides for sanctions for the enforcement of those duties. Austin´s notions of general jurisprudence and his conceptual boundaries between law and ethics were an attack on natural law.

After Koskenniemi´s initial presentation a lively discussion brought forth questions on: Austin´s relation to utilitarianism and Bentham; Austin´s unproblematic notion of the sovereign; the possibility of comparing Schmitt and Austin; the philosophical language and epistemological rythms present in the PJD; the "will theory" as a European aversion to natural law (despite its own naturalism); the view of human identity in the nineteenth century; professionalization and its relation to the reception of Austin; the relation of the deductive/inductive as formalism/realism; and the general poverty of many jurisprudential texts that consider legal concepts as stable and perennial.