Levée En Masse – A Nineteenth Century Concept in a Twenty-First Century World

18 Pages Posted: 27 May 2011

See all articles by Emily Crawford

Emily Crawford

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 24, 2011


Levée en masse – the spontaneous uprising of the civilian population against an invading force – has long been a part of the modern law of armed conflict with regards to determining who may legitimately participate in armed conflict. The concept originated during the French Revolution, and was internationalized with its inclusion in the rules of armed conflict adopted by the Union Army during the American Civil War. Levée en masse continued to be included in the major international law of armed conflict documents from that time on, including The Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949. However, since that time, there have been few, if any, instances of levée en masse. This article examines the historical and legal development of the concept of levée en masse, charting its evolution from a general and sustained call to arms to the civilian population to the more strict 19th and 20th century legal categorization of civilians attempting to fend off an invading force. This article also examines the few instances of levee en masse in State practice, and, in doing so, assesses whether the concept retains any utility in 21st century armed conflict.

Keywords: international armed conflict, international humanitarian law, civilian participation in armed conflict, levee en masse

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Crawford, Emily, Levée En Masse – A Nineteenth Century Concept in a Twenty-First Century World (May 24, 2011). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 11/31. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1851947

Emily Crawford (Contact Author)

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006

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