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The Places in Between
Dan Bodansky
36 Temple International & Comparative Law Journal 107 (2022)
Open Access


Should international lawyers care about history and, if so, why? What is history for? In her new. book, International Law and the Politics of History (Cambridge 2021), Anne Orford frames the possible answers in Manichean terms. On one side are professional historians, who believe that history can “answer once and for all in some determinate, objective manner” questions about the “meaning and understanding of international law.” On the other side are critical scholars, like Orford herself, who believe that history is “inevitably partisan and political” and provides lawyers only with arguments, not answers. In presenting only these two extremes, Orford does not consider that there might be places in between – that history might be able to answer some questions but not others; that historians might be more or less objective and more or less partisan; that history might be neither neoformalism nor politics, but simply history.
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