State liability in the First World War

a comparative study of Germany and France

August 24, 2020

The First World War is sometimes called the 20th century’s ›primordial catastophe‹. It raised diverse legal questions and led to a host of fundamental changes. In volume 322 of the MPIeR’s book series Studien zur europäischen Rechtsgeschichte, which has just been published, Philipp Siegert examines state liability law in Germany and France between 1914 and 1918. On the basis of a detailed analysis of both French and German archival sources, he analyses states’ legal responsibility during such a state of emergency and identifies categories of ›legitimate‹ and ›illegitimate‹ state action that, however, were either non-existent in pre-war international law or even contradicted it. Nevertheless, these were subsequently sanctioned by the peace treaties, and even a century after 1919 remain part of the international order. The ways in which destruction, expropriation and economic war measures carried out by France and Germany were assessed and sanctioned is highly instructive for the question of state liability in international law today.

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