Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law

Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law

Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law

Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law


First published in 1970, A Modern Introduction to International Law rapidly established itself as the most widely used and successful textbook in its field. It covers a variety of topics from diplomatic immunity to the UN and from recognition of government to war crimes. This new edition has been completely revised and updated by Peter Malanczuk to take account of many recent developments and includes new chapters on human rights, the environment and the economy.


A Modern Introduction to International Law by the late Professor Michael Akehurst was first published in 1970. Passing through six editions, it became a classic among student textbooks within departments of law and political science alike and it has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese. Since the last edition in 1987, however, due to the author’s death, the text has been merely reprinted without change and, in view of the manifold new developments in international law and international relations in the ten years that have passed since the sixth edition, especially after the end of the Cold War, it became outdated. While I have therefore sought to build upon the solid groundwork laid by Dr Akehurst (who, unfortunately, I did not know personally) and to retain his clarity of style and unique focus on the interrelationship between legal theory and political practice, I found it necessary to subject the contents and structure of the book to a thorough scrutiny, reorganization and some enlargement, including additional chapters on important new branches of international law. But I would like to record my deep respect to Michael Akehurst who contributed much to education and to the study of international law, also by means of many other masterly publications which he wrote, and who, in a collection of essays dedicated to his memory, has been described by his British colleagues as ‘one of the most gifted international lawyers of his generation’.

In preparing a revised and updated new version of the book, I have tried to produce an edition that will meet the needs of students and other readers for an introduction to international law, as well as providing a more comprehensive account than the previous edition of the general scope of the subject as it stands today, although I have become acutely aware of the difficulty of trying to achieve this within a single book that should not become too long. At the same time, by incorporating more systematic and extensive references, it has been designed to serve as a point of departure for more advanced study and for research. The revised text aims at a broader and somewhat more cosmopolitan audience by drawing upon a variety of legal systems, perspectives and also on literature in languages other than English. The conceptual approach is based upon a historical perspective of international law and emphasizes its dynamic nature as a process which evolved from its limited European origins to a universal system and is characterized by the strong impact of power relations, as well as by the diversity of the national legal systems, cultures, and political and economic structures with which it interacts.

Compared with the sixth edition, too many changes as regards

1 V. Lowe (ed.), The United Nations and Principles of International Law: Essays in Memory of Michael Akehurst, 1994.

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