Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gillespie's three volume History of the Laws of War

A History of the Laws of War: Volume 2: The Customs and Laws of War with Regards to Civilians in Times of Conflict, and A History of the Laws of War: Volume 3: The Customs and Laws of War with Regards to Arms Control, both by Alexander Gillespie, have just been published by Hart Publishing. The recently published first volume is on The Customs and Laws of War with Regards to Combatants and Captives.

The press describes Vol. 2 this way:
This unique new work of reference traces the origins of the modern laws of warfare from the earliest times to the present day. Relying on written records from as far back as 2400 BCE, and using sources ranging from the Bible to Security Council Resolutions, the author pieces together the history of a subject which is almost as old as civilisation itself. The author shows that as long as humanity has been waging wars it has also been trying to find ways of legitimising different forms of combatants and ascribing rules to them, protecting civilians who are either inadvertently or intentionally caught up between them, and controlling the use of particular classes of weapons that may be used in times of conflict. Thus it is that this work is divided into three substantial parts: Volume 1 on the laws affecting combatants and captives; Volume 2 on civilians; and Volume 3 on the law of arms control.

This second book on civilians examines four different topics. The first topic deals with the targetting of civilians in times of war. This discussion is one which has been largely governed by the developments of technologies which have allowed projectiles to be discharged over ever greater areas, and attempts to prevent their indiscriminate utilisation have struggled to keep pace. The second topic concerns the destruction of the natural environment, with particular regard to the utilisation of starvation as a method of warfare, and unlike the first topic, this one has rarely changed over thousands of years, although contemporary practices are beginning to represent a clear break from tradition. The third topic is concerned with the long standing problems of civilians under the occupation of opposing military forces, where the practices of genocide, collective punishments and/or reprisals, and rape have occurred. The final topic in this volume is about the theft or destruction of the property of the enemy, in terms of either pillage or the intentional devastation of the cultural property of the opposition.
And vol. 3:
This third volume deals with the question of the control of weaponry, from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age. In doing so, it divides into two parts: namely, conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction. The examination of the history of arms control of conventional weapons begins with the control of weaponry so that one side could achieve a military advantage over another. This pattern, which only began to change centuries after the advent of gunpowder, was later supplemented by ideals to control types of conventional weapons because their impacts upon opposing combatants were inhumane. By the late twentieth century, the concerns over inhumane conventional weapons, were being supplemented by concerns over indiscriminate conventional weapons.

The focus on indiscriminate weapons, when applied on a mass scale, is the focus of the second part of the volume. Weapons of Mass Destruction are primarily weapons of the latter half of the twentieth century. Although both chemical and biological warfare have long historical lineages, it was only after the Second World War, that technological developments meant that these weapons could be applied to cause large-scale damage to non-combatants. Nuclear weapons are a truly modern invention. Despite being the newest Weapon of Mass Destruction, they are also the weapon of which most international attention has been applied, although the frameworks by which they were contained in the last century, appear inadequate to address the needs of current times.
And blurbs:
'The law impacts on modern military operations at all levels. The importance of understanding the influence of international law, and the constraints, which it places upon the conduct of armed conflict, is an essential area of study. Dr Alexander Gillespie's three volume work traces the development and scope of this law from the earliest times through the modern day. In doing so he identifies constant themes and common principles in the law, as well, unfortunately, as all too common breaches. Commanders and historians, as well as lawyers, will find this book of great value. It is written in a practical and useful style and brings to light many fascinating examples of the law at work in times of war from which contemporary lessons can be learned'.
Brigadier Kevin Riordan, Director General of Defence Legal Services for the New Zealand Defence Forces.

'The span of scholarship on offer in these volumes is astonishing…an extraordinary gathering of historical and legal materials many of which record the most sombre and tragic events of human history - war in all its terrible forms.'
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand

'At a time of real challenge, Alexander Gillespie is to be commended for his monumental and significant contribution to our understanding of the context, practice and principles that govern war and armed conflict. This vital book is an indispensable part of any library, and will be a necessary resource for governments, NGOs, international organisers, academics and lawyers involved in the issues.'
Professor Philippe Sands QC, University College London

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