The roots of the international legal order have often been traced to intertwining scholarly and political traditions dating back to the early seventeenth century, in particular to early writings in international law and the rise of the nation-state in Europe. Recent scholarship has attacked this narrative from many angles. One approach has been to reexamine early modern European politics and discourse, in particular questioning whether, for example, the publication of Grotius's writings, or the Peace of Westphalia, functioned as a foundational moment in the history of the interstate order. A second, complementary approach has been to broaden the history of global order to encompass inter-imperial politics, including the legal relations of imperial powers and indigenous subjects. The two projects have been occasionally combined in efforts to trace the impact of imperial politics on trends in international law.
Lauren Benton is Professor of History at New York University <firstname.lastname@example.org>. For helpful comments on earlier drafts, the author would like to thank David Armitage, C. A. Bayly, Thomas Bender, Fred Cooper, Manu Goswami, Daniel Hulsebosch, Benedict Kingsbury, Mark Mazower, William Nelson, Gyan Prakash, Benjamin Straumann, two anonymous reviewers for this journal, and the participants at the conference “Law, War, and History,” held at the Boalt School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, February 16–18, 2007.