The Global Evolution of Foreign Relations Law

69 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021 Last revised: 14 Feb 2022

See all articles by Kevin L. Cope

Kevin L. Cope

University of Virginia School of Law

Pierre-Hugues Verdier

University of Virginia School of Law

Mila Versteeg

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: September 10, 2021

Abstract

The constitutional rules that govern how states engage with international law have profound implications for foreign affairs, yet we lack comprehensive data on the choices countries make and their motivations. We draw on an original dataset that covers 108 countries over a nearly 200-year period to map countries’ foreign relations law choices and trace their evolution. We find that legal origins and colonial legacies continue to account for most foreign relations law choices. A small number of models emerged in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in Western Europe, subsequently spread through colonial channels, and usually survived decolonization. Departures from received models are rare and usually associated with major political shifts. Prominent political science accounts that emphasize how states design their foreign relations law strategically to enhance their international credibility or entrench democracy or human rights appear to have limited explanatory power over the bulk of foreign relations law today.

Keywords: foreign relations, comparative law, international law

Suggested Citation

Cope, Kevin L. and Verdier, Pierre-Hugues and Versteeg, Mila, The Global Evolution of Foreign Relations Law (September 10, 2021). Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2021-22, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2021-44, American Journal of International Law, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3921252

Kevin L. Cope (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.kevinlcope.com

Pierre-Hugues Verdier

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Mila Versteeg

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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