Title A Scrap of Paper
Subtitle Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War
Author Isabel V. Hull
ISBN 9781501735837
List price GBP 21.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 384
Book size 171 x 241 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher Cornell University Press (Combined Academic Publishers)
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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A Scrap of Paper is an outstanding book and a work of exceptional scholarship.”

American Journal of International Law


A Scrap of Paper is a strong demonstration of the worth of international law and the laws of war in particular, and vindicates Ms. Hull’s standing as one of our greatest historians of modern European politics.”

The Wall Street Journal


“Cornell University history professor Isabel V. Hull gives a thorough and thoughtful investigation into one of the war’s trigger points, the legal issues surrounding Germany’s invasion of Belgium. The assault widened the war by drawing in Britain, committed by treaty to protecting Belgian neutrality. Germany was a signatory to that same treaty, but its army command believed that military necessity trumped international agreements and, as Hull finds, Germany’s military seldom coordinated its planning with the country’s civilian leaders. A Scrap of Paper is a luminous account of war and international law with implications for recent and ongoing world conflicts.”

—Shepherd Express


“This book should not get lost in the rather large volume of new studies published as we mark the centennial of the First World War. It makes a distinct contribution not only to the bast historiography of the war, but also to the developing body of literature on the intersection of law and international conflict.”

Canadian Military History


“This book will be of interest to serious students of World War I. It explores important, long-forgotten decision making that influenced some of the best known and far-reaching operations in military history. A Scrap of Paper is also a source of unusual case studies for practitioners who need to understand how diplomacy, operational design, and strategic communications shape, and are shaped, by international law. This book illuminates challenges facing practitioners today as much as those facing their predecessors a century ago.”

—Military Review


“Hull’s book is an extremely valuable one. As regulating the conduct of war at sea played a vital role in the evolution of international law, it is fitting that naval and maritime issues play a prominent part in her narrative.... Her work is comparative and displays research in British, French and German archives, but her analysis does remain focused on those nations—with a particular strength on Imperial Germany.”

—European History Quarterly


“Isabel V. Hull’s passionate narrative of the role of international law in the decision-making processes in Berlin and London during the First World War opens a strikingly original perspective on the consciousness of the wartime actors. This was a war waged also by legal arguments. In the end, the inability and unwillingness of Imperial Germany to defend its case in legal terms crucially undermined its war effort. This is not only superb history, but also the most powerful defense of the role of law in international crisis that I have read, and as such is of obvious contemporary relevance.”

Martti Koskenniemi, Academy Professor, University of Helsinki, author of The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960


“Over the last decade, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the laws of armed conflict have become matters of popular and public interest. Despite the growth of international humanitarian law, much of the law with which we still operate dates from the fifteen years just before the First World War and was applied within it. A Scrap of Paper is the first book to pay sustained attention to the subject of international law in the First World War since 1920. It is not only a timely book, it is an overdue one, and its impact on the study of the war will be important and game-changing. Isabel V. Hull has the linguistic range and scholarly tools to tackle the subject in the truly comparative fashion that its complexity demands.”

—Sir Hew Strachan, All Souls College, University of Oxford, author of The First World War: To Arms


A century after the outbreak of the Great War, we have forgotten the central role that international law and the dramatically different interpretations of it played in the conflict’s origins and conduct. In A Scrap of Paper, Isabel V. Hull compares wartime decision-making in Germany, Great Britain, and France, weighing the impact of legal considerations in each. Throughout, she emphasizes the profound tension between international law and military necessity in time of war, and demonstrates how differences in state structures and legal traditions shaped the way in which each of the three belligerents fought the war. Hull focuses on seven cases in which each government’s response was shaped by its understanding of and respect for the law: Belgian neutrality, the land war in the west, the occupation of enemy territory, the blockade, unrestricted submarine warfare, the introduction of new weaponry (including poison gas and the zeppelin), and reprisals. Drawing on voluminous research in German, British, and French archives, the author reconstructs the debates over military decision making and clarifies the role played by law—where it constrained action, where it was manipulated to serve military need, where it was simply ignored, and how it developed in the crucible of combat. She concludes that Germany did not speak the same legal language as the two liberal democracies, with disastrous and far-reaching consequences. The first book on international law and the Great War published since 1920, A Scrap of Paper is a passionate defense of the role that the law must play to govern interstate relations in both peace and war.





Chapter 1. Prologue: What We Have Forgotten

Chapter 2. Belgian Neutrality

Chapter 3 The “Belgian Atrocities” and the Laws of War on Land

Chapter 4. Occupation and the Treatment of Enemy Civilians

Chapter 5. Great Britain and the Blockade

Chapter 6. Breaking and Making International Law: The Blockade, 1915–1918

Chapter 7. Germany and New Weapons: Submarines, Zeppelins, Poison Gas, Flamethrowers

Chapter 8. Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

Chapter 9. Reprisals: Prisoners of War and Allied Aerial Bombardment

Chapter 10. Conclusion



About the Author:

Isabel V. Hull is John Stambaugh Professor of History at Cornell University. She is the author of Absolute Destruction and Sexuality, State and Civil Society in Germany, 1700–1815, both from Cornell.

Target Audience:

Useful for people interested in history, political science international law (laws of war, in particular). This book will be of interest to serious students of World War I, and for practitioners who need to understand how diplomacy, operational design, and strategic communications shape, and are shaped, by international law.

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