The ‘Great War’ of 1914-18 has dominated academic and popular debate over the past decade. Yet post-war attempts at peace-making may yield more important insights and lessons for contemporary debates about global order and attempts to forge a ‘rules-based international system’. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 has attracted intense interest from both historians of international relations and international lawyers. But the research that has resulted is characterised by a striking lack of dialogue between the two disciplines.

The core objective of this project is therefore to make a significant and original contribution to existing scholarship on the Paris Peace Conference by marrying research questions and methodological approaches from the disciplines of international law and international history. To achieve this we have established a multi-disciplinary network of leading international experts in these disciplines. This network will consolidate existing collaborative relationships in these fields and extend them through sustained interdisciplinary dialogue. The network held its first workshop in Glasgow in November 2018. A wider conference will be held in May 2019.


Please also see details of our GCILS Conference on Visions of Global Order, which took place in May 2019.



Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is an historian of international relations with long-standing interest and expertise in the area of contending conceptions of international order after the First World War. His 2013 monograph, Beyond the Balance of Power: France and the politics of national security in the era of the First World War (Cambridge University Press), examined this question from the perspective of French politics and policy. One of the central arguments of this book was that French security policy after 1918 was influenced in fundamental ways by juridical conceptions of peace and security. Professor Jackson is also a member of the Steering Committee of an international commission of historians that is organising a series of major events to commemorate the centenary of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 entitled ‘The Paris Peace Conference and the Challenge of a New World Order’. Peter has been Chair of Global Security at University of Glasgow since 2013.

Christian Tams

Christian J. Tams has been, since 2009, Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow. Questions of military conflict, and of institutions set up to prevent it, are central to his research. The inter-war period has been a major focus of his work, which, for example, has resulted in books on the first ‘world court’ set up after WW1 (Legacies of the Permanent Court of International Justice, Nijhoff 2013) as well as widely-cited pieces on the League of Nations and a keynote on the same topic commissioned by the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law. His more recent work engages with the conditions and consequences of historical research in international law (incl. International Economic Law and History, Elgar 2018).  Professor Tams adds disciplinary expertise in law as well as openness for collaboration with historians to this project. Having developed, with the BBC, a successful online course on the First World War (which in 2014/15 attracted circa 17,000 subscribers), he also brings vast experience in reaching out beyond academic audiences.  

 All participants in November 2018 and/or May 2019 Network Events can be found here



  • Armistice/ End of World War 1 – 11th November 1918
  • Duration of the Versailles Peace Conference – 19th January 1919 – 24th July 1923 (with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne)
  • Adoption of the Treaty of Versailles – 28th June 1919
  • Covenant of the League of Nations signed – 28th June 1919
  • Covenant of the League of Nations entry into force – 10th January 1920
  • First Council Meeting of the League of Nations held – 16th January 1920
  • Statue of the Permanent Court of International Justice adopted – 13th December 1920
  • Permanent Court of International Justice – first hearing: 30th January 1922; first advisory opinion: 31st July 1922; first judgment: 28th June 1923.
  • Dates of key crises that led to the League’s effective collapse – Manchurian Crisis: 18th September 1931 – 18th February 1932 (which culminated in Japan’s withdrawal from the League); Italian Invasion of Abyssinia and occupation of Addis Ababa: 3 October 1935 – 5th May 1936 (which culminated in Italy’s withdrawal from the League); Remilitarisation of the Rhineland – 7 March 1936; Anschluss/German Annexation of Austria – 12th March 1938; German Occupation of the Sudetenland – 1st-10th October 1938 (occurred after agreement struck with Britain and France 15th-18th September 1938)
  • Final Meeting of the League, transfer of assets to the newly-formed United Nations and dissolution of Permanent Court of International Justice – 18th April 1946.



A century ago, after four years of war of an unprecedented scale and cost, planning for the post-WW1 order began in earnest. The core aim of the Paris Peace Conference (1919) was to construct a new World Order to ensure lasting peace – in which international legal rules binding States were to play a preeminent role. The Conference remains among the most important yet controversial events in modern history. It is often considered to have made a second global war inevitable, but it has also been praised for providing bases for peace and stability that were squandered by leaders during the inter-war period.  

The Conference has attracted intense interest from both historians of international relations and international lawyers, but much of the existing research is constrained by disciplinary biases; there remains a lack of dialogue between the two disciplines. International legal scholarship remains centred on quintessentially ‘lawyerly’ themes – the use of treaties; the establishment of the first world organisation and the first world court, etc. While there is abundant literature on the legal aspects of the League of Nations; there is, however, limited reliance on archives. Scientifically sound and critical biographical scholarship on key international lawyers is also scarce; while empirical research into the impact of treaties concluded after WW1 remains selective.

Historical scholarship can also offer important insights, but international historians have not fully grasped the much-increased role of international law in the post-war order. Isabelle Hull’s work (2014) has focused on the role of international law in shaping the behaviour of belligerent states during WW1. Pedersen (2015), Jackson (2013), Guieu (2010, 2016) and Wertheim (2012) have all argued that juridical approaches were more central to peace planning than is commonly recognised in the historical literature, but much work remains to be done. 

Against this background, we have sought to establish an informal network that brings experts from the fields of international history, international relations and international law into an ongoing dialogue on peace-making after the WW1. As a first initiative of this Network, we organised a small-group workshop in Glasgow on 8-9 November, which coincided with the centenary of the Armistice that ended the First World War (11 November 1918). The workshop addressed two core questions:

  1. What was the role of international law in the various conceptions of world order pursued by peacemakers in Paris in 1919?
  2. What would a new literature on peace-making in 1919 and after look like if work on this question in the fields of international law, international history and international relations theory are brought together? 

From these core questions flowed several subsidiary questions and issues: 

i) How important were transnational networks of legal professionals, peace activists and other civil society organisations in shaping juridically-inspired conceptions of a new international order in Paris?

ii) What was the overlap between these conceptions and blueprints for a League of Nations?

iii) What role did national cultural differences play in shaping the manner in which international law was mobilised in support of a peaceful world order? 

These questions will also feature heavily in a conference to be organised at University of Glasgow for May 2019. 

The network’s activities are intended to produce a number of outcomes. The core outcome of this project will be the creation of an international network of experts. This network will combine expertise on policy-making elites as well as on the transnational public sphere. Within scholarship, the primary outputs will be the body of knowledge produced and synthesised at the November workshop and the May Conference. Some outputs will emerge through publication of a major collection of scholarly articles by members of the network, edited by Professors Jackson and Tams and published in a leading inter-disciplinary journal.

Outwith the immediate setting of the network, a number of opportunities for public engagement will emerge. This will include a number of public lectures at University of Glasgow by participants in the network as well as other activities to promulgate the network’s research to a wider audience. One previous example of this undertaken by Professor Tams was the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that he co-organised along with the BBC on the subject of the First World War (which had circa 17,000 subscribers) in 2014/15. Such outreach is currently under development. The proposed network will also function as a key constituent element of a wider international project ‘The Paris Peace Conference and the Challenge of a New World Order’, which is being co-convened by Professor Jackson, that includes scholars from four continents and will culminate in a major conference in Paris in June 2019.



The ‘Visions of Global Order: Peace, Law and Security after the First World War’ project is funded by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Arts & Humanities Research Grant.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, is an educational charity (registered in Scotland) operating on a wholly independent and non-party-political basis and providing public benefit throughout Scotland. It contributes to the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of Scotland through the advancement of learning and useful knowledge. Established in 1783, the RSE draws upon the considerable strengths and varied expertise of it’s Fellows. Unlike similar organisations in the rest of the UK, the RSE’s Fellowship includes people from a wide range of disciplines – science & technology, arts, humanities, social science, business and public service. This breadth of expertise makes it unique in the UK. The RSE is currently composed of approximately 1600 members from within Scotland, the rest of the United Kingdom, and beyond.



Please see all the publications linked to this projects, as well as the Visions of Global Order – November 2018 workshop programme