IILJ Working Paper 2005/13 (History and Theory of International Law Series)

The Context of International Legal Arguments: “Positivist” International Law Scholar August von Bulmerincq (1822 – 1890) and His Concept of Politics

Lauri Malksoo

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This working paper discusses the life and legal arguments presented by August von Bulmerincq (1822-1890), a leading figure in the discipline of international law during the 1860s-1880s. One of the influential initial collaborators of the Institut de droit international, Bulmerincq taught international law at the universities of Dorpat (today: Tartu, Estonia) and Heidelberg. The paper discusses the positivist concept of the separation of international law from politics in Bulmerincq’s theoretical work and demonstrates how Bulmerincq’s Baltic German background had impact on his legal views. The paper examines, by going through Bulmerincq’s international legal arguments, whether he could hold up to his normative ideal of the separation of law from politics. In particular, Bulmerincq’s views regarding the right to asylum, the legal status of the Baltic provinces, the international law aspects of the unification of Germany under Bismarck and the right to national self-determination are discussed.