Thursday, January 26, 2017

Howland on Japan and international law

Douglas Howland, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has published International Law and Japanese Sovereignty: The Emerging Global Orderin the 19th Century with Palgrave Macmillan. From the press:
How does a nation become a great power? A global order was emerging in the nineteenth century, one in which all nations were included. This book explores the multiple legal grounds of Meiji Japan's assertion of sovereign statehood within that order: natural law, treaty law, international administrative law, and the laws of war. Contrary to arguments that Japan was victimized by "unequal" treaties, or that Japan was required to meet a "standard of civilization" before it could participate in international society, Howland argues that the Westernizing Japanese state was a player from the start. In the midst of contradictions between law and imperialism, Japan expressed state will and legal acumen as an equal of the Western powers – international incidents in Japanese waters, disputes with foreign powers on Japanese territory, and the prosecution of interstate war. As a member of international administrative unions, Japan worked with fellow members to manage technical systems such as the telegraph and the post. As a member of organizations such as the International Law Association and as a leader at the Hague Peace Conferences, Japan helped to expand international law. By 1907, Japan was the first non-western state to join the ranks of the great powers.
Highlights from some reviews:

“This fascinating book challenges us to reexamine the 'standard of civilization' thesis that lies at the heart of the rise of the modern international order. Could China and other non-Western nations have avoided humiliation and defeat at the hands of Western Powers had they followed Japan's steps in using rather than rejecting available instruments of international law to establish their sovereignty?”- Amitav Acharya

“Howland’s book is impressive in the width and breath of his treatment of state practice and of the sources he uses. His comprehensive treatment leads to an especially rich narrative about the confrontation between the West and the periphery and its role in the formation of modern international law.”- Randall Lesaffer

“Howland knows well current understandings of global political history, but by focusing on how leaders and diplomats, broadly defined, used law, he provides solid empirical work to show how our current understanding of the rise and formation of the international, especially in East Asia, desperately needs revision.”- Stefan Tanaka

Further information is available here.