The Paris peace negotiations formally ended the First World War in 1919. In the same year, US President Wilson presented the draft of the Covenant for the League of Nations. At the annual meeting of the American Society for International Law in April 1919, the eminent international jurist and President of the Society, Elihu Root, expressed his concerns about the draft of the Covenant of the League of Nations. In his opinion, international law had not been given a prominent place in the draft of the Covenant, and thus, he exclaimed: ‘is there going to be any international law? The paper explores the events surrounding the Paris Peace Conferences in 1919, examining how international jurists experienced the conferences and analysing their commentaries. While some international jurists participated as delegates at the conferences, others experienced the events from outside, or even from far away. These different perspectives allow a broader examination of international jurists’ visions of a future world order, and what role international law would play in international relations after the war.

Gabriela Frei is currently an Associate Member of the Faculty of History, Oxford, and an Early Career Fellow at TORCH, Humanities Division, Oxford. Her research and publications focus on the relationship between international law, trade and strategy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has been particularly interested in the role of jurists in international politics, and how international law shapes political agendas. More recently she has been engaged in researching and writing more broadly about the law of the sea in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In her current postdoctoral research project, she examines how the understanding of a legal international order changed as a result of the First World War, and how an international economic order emerged during the interwar period. In 2015 she organised a workshop on ‘International Law and the First World War. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives’, and the results have been published in the European Journal of International Law in 2018. She recently published ‘Law of the Sea Negotiations’, in: Encyclopedia of Diplomacy, ed. by Gordon Martel (2018); ‘Institut de droit international and the Making of Law for Peace (1899-1917)’, in: Les défenseurs de la paix (1899-1917), ed. by Rémi Fabre (2018); Her book ‘Great Britain, International Law, and the Evolution of Maritime Strategic Thought, 1856-1914’ is forthcoming with OUP.


The PIL Discussion Group hosts a weekly speaker event and light lunch and is a key focal point for PIL@Oxford. Topics involve contemporary and challenging issues in international law. Speakers include distinguished international law practitioners, academics, and legal advisers from around the world.

The group typically meets each Thursday during Oxford terms in The Old Library, All Souls College, with lunch commencing at 12:30. The speaker will commence at 12:45 and speak for about forty minutes, allowing about twenty five minutes for questions and discussion. The meeting should conclude before 2:00. Practitioners, academics and students from within and outside the University of Oxford are all welcome. No RSVP is necessary. Join the PIL Email List to receive information about the PIL Discussion Group meetings, as well as other PIL@Oxford news.
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Convenors of the Oxford Public International Law Discussion Group are Sachintha Dias Mudalige and Eirini Fasia.
The discussion group's meetings are part of the programme of the British Branch of the International Law Association and are supported by the Law Faculty and Oxford University Press.