More Oral Histories of International Lawyers

by Duncan Hollis

Back in 2008, I flagged the great service being done by the Squire Law Library at the University of Cambridge in compiling oral histories from some of the more eminent figures in international law. At the time, I focused on the recorded interviews with Sir Elihu Lauterpacht QC (although they’d also done one with Sir Derek Bowett, who passed away only a few months ago). 

Since then, the Library has done at least a couple more interviews that may be of interest.  They’ve posted a short interview with Martti Koskenniemi where he offers views on, among other things, the lasting influence of Sir Hersch Lauterpacht. They also have a more extensive interview with former ICJ President Stephen M. Schwebel, who talks about his own studies at Cambridge under Sir Hersch, Clive Parry and Robert Jennings, plus his early associations with folks like Sir Eli, Sir Derek, and Nagendra Singh.

Now maybe it’s the common connection to Cambridge, but I found these interviews quite striking in how small the international law community (or at least its English-speaking version) seems to have been in the years following WWII.  With all the specialization and fragmentation of the field today, the modern state of international law seems a far cry from the idea of a handful of generalists who taught or studied together.  That’s not to dismiss the utility of these stories or the project as a whole, but it does serve to mark how much the profession has (or is) changing.  In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing who else Cambridge pulls in for interviews in the coming years.

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