Frederik Dhondt - Teaching International Law at King Leopold’s Foreign Office: Léon Arendt’s Droit des gens-course (1904)

Réalisation : 16 septembre 2021 Mise en ligne : 16 septembre 2021
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The privatepapers of Léon Arendt (1848-1924), director of Political Affairs in theBelgian Foreign Office from 1896 to 1912, offer a unique insider’s view on anoften little-studied aspect: the in-house teaching of international law.For centuries, the practice of international relations had no strong connectionwith the formal obtention of a university degree. Legal advice was often soughtexternally At the turn of the twentieth century, due to King Leopold II’sinvolvement, Belgian universities offered more specialised courses.

LéonArendt ,doctor of law and of political and administrative science, entered theministry in 1870. His 175 page-long handwritten course on the law of nations (“Droitdes gens”) was divided into two parts (“Political relations betweenstates”, 64 p. – “Conflicts between Nations”, 103 p.), counting each fivechapters. Arendt tailored the conceptual analysis to the essentialdefinitions, contrasts and exceptions, amply illustrated by examples. Hedid not exclude that natural law would continue to be of high importance.

I will analysetwo aspects: First, permanent neutrality, Belgium’s legal regime from1830 to 1919, which Arendt saw as a ‘restriction considérable de lasouveraineté’. Second, peaceful dispute settlement, in the wake of1899, allows to confront his analysis with the de lege ferenda normativestatements of Descamps, who actively pleaded for the transformation of theconcept of neutrality through the imposition of mandatory arbitration.


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