Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Capozzola reviews Hull's "A Scrap of Paper"

This past week JOTWELL published Christopher Capozzola's review, "The First World War: International Law Mattered More than You Think," which examines and lauds Isabel Hull's A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War (Cornell University Press). Here's a snippet from the review:
"The “scrap of paper” in Hull’s title refers to Britain’s 1839 treaty promise to defend Belgian neutrality, dismissed in a conversation on August 4, 1914, between German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg and British ambassador Edward Goschen. “[J]ust for a scrap of paper,” Goschen recalled Bethmann saying, “Great Britain was going to make war on a kindred nation who desired nothing better than to be friends with her.” (P. 42.) That scrap of paper—and the system of international law it reflected—mattered to actors at the time and should concern historians today. It was not simply that Germany or the Allies used international law as a post hoc justification for military actions (although, of course, they did that). Rather, Hull says, from beginning to end, “international law was central to how and why the Great War was fought.” (P. x.)"