What Are International Law’s “Must Reads” from the Past Decade?

What Are International Law’s “Must Reads” from the Past Decade?

In a comment to a recent post, Patrick O’Donnell noted a post from the first year of Opinio Juris in which I had taken a crack at starting a list of the “must reads “of international law. I wanted to get a discussion going over what should be the key scholarly texts in our field. Opinio Juris readers made significant contributions and suggestions to the list.

Returning to this discussion, are there any “must reads” that we should add from the last ten years: articles, books, blog posts? What were the any earlier texts that we missed?

As Peter mentioned in his post, international law is constantly expanding breadth and drilling down in depth, such that there are now relatively few generalists. It may be that the moment has passed where one person could have have deep expertise across the whole of the field.

I wonder if the “must reads” on international law will be less and less about “international law” in general, but rather be deep dives into a particular substantive areas. My guess is that as international law itself is flowering, the list of “must read” texts is also growing as there are important texts across an ever-widening spectrum of international legal theory and practice. But now some (perhaps most?) of the “must reads” might not be “must reads” for everybody, but for anybody interested in a certain area of our profession.

If you have any suggestions as to “must reads,” either generalist texts or in a particular sub-field, please let us know in the comments to this post or via Twitter to @Chris_Borgen and @OpinioJuris with the hashtag #OJ10 (we may then post them in the comments section to the post).

I have a few initial (and non-exhaustive) suggestions from the last decade. They are texts that I return to time and again for their perspectives and insights. With the following selections to start things off (as well as the original list from 2005), I look forward to any other suggestions the Opinio Juris community may have!

General Texts or Treatises

James Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law (Oxford 2d ed. 2006)  A remarkable compendium of analysis of the international law of statehood and sovereignty.

James Crawford, The International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility: Introduction, Text and Commentaries (Cambridge 2002). This should have been on the original list back in 2005. A key reference to an important project in international law.

Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission on Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties Arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law (.pdf) (13 April 2006) UN Doc A/CN.4/L.682 and the accompanying Analytical Study (.pdf). Much the this post is built on the assumption that international law is expanding, becoming more institutionally complex, and deepening. But is the proliferation of law and institutions also leading to legal fragmentation? This has been a much-debated topic since at least the 1990’s. The ILC’s report, finalized by Martti Koskenniemi and the related study, have been much-debated and remain key resources in thinking-through this important topic.

The Oxford Guide to Treaties (Duncan Hollis, ed.) (Oxford 2012) At the risk of being accused of cheering for the home team, I want to note this volume that Duncan edited because it is a particularly significant contribution to the law of treaties, with 25 essays by many of the leading scholars and practitioners in the field as well as a sort of “bird-watcher’s guide” with examples of treaty clauses. (Truth in advertizing, I have a short piece in this book. No, my own chapter is not a “must read.”)

Legal History

The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law (Bardo Fassbender and Anne Peters, eds) (Oxford 2012). A deep survey of the history of international law in and across countries and cultures. It goes beyond international legal history as European history and widens the focus to encompass comparative legal histories and how different international legal traditions encounter and interact with each other. Plus a section of legal biographies. A fascinating and much-needed resource.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Featured, General
Notify of
Harlan Cohen

This is just a start, but I would include Andrew Guzman’s How International Law Works (2007) somewhere on the list. Can we stretch the list to include things a little before 2005, that have had significant influence in the last decade? If so, I’d nominate Dan Bodansky’s “The Legitimacy of International Governance: A Coming Challenge for International Environmental Law?,” 93 Am. J. Int’l L. 596 (1999), which continues to serve as a touchstone for assessing the regulatory turn in international law, and the “Legalization” and “Rational Design of International Institutions” issues of International Organization, Vols. 54:3 and 55:4, which helped launch much of the IR/IL work of the past decade, particularly on the choice between Hard and Soft law.


Beyond the Law: The Bush Administration’s Unlawful Responses in the “War” on Terror (Cambridge Univ. Press 2007); The United States and Torture (Marjorie Cohn ed. NYU Press 2011)4

James G. Stewart

Surely Anthony Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (CUP, 2007) makes the list.


Shouldn’t Crawford’s updated treatise on State Responsibility (2013) make the list too? Also T.M. Frank’s work on Democratic Governance (1992) is a beautiful read. So is Roth’s work on Governmental Illegitimacy AND Simma’s work on the United Nations Charter (2002?). These go to the very heart of Public International Law. A must read if one is to build a foundation in the field generally, particularly at the undergraduate level.

Abdulmalik Altamimi
Abdulmalik Altamimi

Jutta and Stephen J. Toope, Legitimacy and Legality in International Law: An Interactional Account (Cambridge University Press 2010) it provides a convincing account for better understanding of how and why international law matter. In his recent book, The Dynamics of Law and Morality, Wibern Burg explained why Brunnée and Toope book is excellent in explicating on pertinent jurisprudential as well as practice-related international law questions. The book analytical-framework is applicable to many subfields of international law where legitimacy and legality are questioned. In international trade law; for example, in relation to the long-standing legality/anti-legality debate, in his seminal article, ‘Editorial Comment: International Law Status of WTO DS Reports: Obligation to comply or Option to “Buy Out”?’ (2004) American Journal of International Law 109, John Jackson used an analytical- mechanism quite similar to that used by Brunnée and Toope in order to stress the legality and obligatory nature of the WTO DSB rules and settlement reports.


Android Versions

Opinio Juris » Blog Archive What Are International Law’s “Must Reads” from the Past Decade? – Opinio Juris