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Professor Martti Koskenniemi launches new book and leads PhD masterclass

Fri 17 February 2023

Professor Martti Koskenniemi talking about his most recent book

The Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law, a research centre of Edinburgh Law School, was delighted to host renowned international law scholar, and Professor Emeritus of International Law at the University of Helsinki, Professor Martti Koskenniemi.

Widely regarded as the leading international law scholar of his generation, Professor Koskenniemi – a prolific author of over 100 articles – is best known for 2 previous books (From Apology to Utopia, and The Gentle Civilizer of Nations) which changed the way international was understood in scholarly circles, and which helped inaugurate a new scholarly interest in the history and theory of international law.

He came to Edinburgh to discuss his new book, To the Uttermost Parts of the Earth: Legal Imagination and International Power, 1300-1870. A sweeping, 1000 page history of European discourses of legal and political thought which have constructed our ideas of state, law, power, commerce, empire and trade, the book represents a monumental scholarly achievement.

In a wide-ranging presentation and conversation with Edinburgh Law School faculty members Dr Michelle Burgis Kasthala, Professor Andrew Lang, and Professor Nehal Bhuta, Koskenniemi argued that his primary concern was to understand the ways in which these legal and political ideas have enabled the exercise of power and domination, and have thus bequeathed us the world in which we live – with all its injustices and complexities.

Professor Bhuta, a Director of the Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law and Chair of International Law at Edinburgh Law School said:

“Martti is a phenomenon. His written work and many scholarly interventions have shaped the way we understand the nature of international law as a legal system, and how it has come to be the legal order that it is. He has also pioneered the study of international lawyers as a profession and as bearers of expertise and social power. It was a thrill to have him here in Edinburgh.”

The following day, Professor Koskenniemi spent three hours with 15 PhD students, discussing their research and reflecting on the nature of writing a PhD in Law. He challenged them to ask themselves why they were moved to study the questions they were researching, and who in the world would be most affected by their research.

Shepherd Mutsvara, from Zimbabwe, one of the PhD students in attendance, said: “Meeting this legendary international law professor was a dream come true for me. I was delighted to have his insights on my ideas, and to learn from his rich perspective.”

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