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A History of the Laws of War: Volume 3

The Customs and Laws of War with Regards to Arms Control

By: Alexander Gillespie
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Published: 07-10-2011
Format: EPUB eBook (?)
Edition: 1st
Extent: 180
ISBN: 9781847318633
Imprint: Hart Publishing
RRP: £63.00
Online price : £50.40
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About A History of the Laws of War: Volume 3

This unique work of reference traces the origins of the modern laws of warfare from the earliest times to the present day. Relying on written records from as far back as 2400 BCE, and using sources ranging from the Bible to Security Council Resolutions, the author pieces together the history of a subject which is almost as old as civilisation itself. The author shows that as long as humanity has been waging wars it has also been trying to find ways of legitimising different forms of combatants and ascribing rules to them, protecting civilians who are either inadvertently or intentionally caught up between them, and controlling the use of particular classes of weapons that may be used in times of conflict. Thus it is that this work is divided into three substantial parts: Volume 1 on the laws affecting combatants and captives; Volume 2 on civilians; and Volume 3 on the law of arms control.

This third volume deals with the question of the control of weaponry, from the Bronze Age to the Nuclear Age. In doing so, it divides into two parts: namely, conventional weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction. The examination of the history of arms control of conventional weapons begins with the control of weaponry so that one side could achieve a military advantage over another. This pattern, which only began to change centuries after the advent of gunpowder, was later supplemented by ideals to control types of conventional weapons because their impacts upon opposing combatants were inhumane. By the late twentieth century, the concerns over inhumane conventional weapons were being supplemented by concerns over indiscriminate conventional weapons.

The focus on indiscriminate weapons, when applied on a mass scale, is the core of the second part of the volume. Weapons of Mass Destruction are primarily weapons of the latter half of the twentieth century. Although both chemical and biological warfare have long historical lineages, it was only after the Second World War that technological developments meant that these weapons could be applied to cause large-scale damage to non-combatants. thi is unlike uclear weapons, which are a truly modern invention. Despite being the newest Weapon of Mass Destruction, they are also the weapon of which most international attention has been applied, although the frameworks by which they were contained in the last century, appear inadequate to address the needs of current times.

As a work of reference this set of three books is unrivalled, and will be of immense benefit to scholars and practitioners researching and advising on the laws of warfare. It also tells a story which throws fascinating new light on the history of international law and on the history of warfare itself.

Table Of Contents

1. The Conversation on Sunday Afternoon
2. Progress, Utopia and Warfare
3. Facts
4. Progress in the Area of Arms Control
I. Conventional Weapons
1. T he Beginnings of Arms Control
2. Gunpowder
3. Trade and Control
4. Superfluous Injury
5. Indiscriminate Injury
6. After the First World War
7. After the Second World War
8. After the Cold War
II. Weapons of Mass Destruction
1. Chemical Weapons
2. Biological Weapons
3. Nuclear Weapons
1. Has the Stockpiling and Flow of Weaponry to Places Where it Inflames Conflict Improved?
2. Are Weapons which Cause Unnecessary Pain Restricted?
3. What are the Customs and Practices with Indiscriminate Weapons?


“These three slim volumes are a labour of love. They are the result of prodigious research into the history of many wars fought from ancient times…It is a work that is easy to read because it is written with great clarity and personal idealism. It will remain an important resource for researchers in this field of the law.” –  M. Sornarajah, Singapore Journal of Legal Studies

“The wealth of materials compiled and reviewed by Alexander Gillespie for the purpose of this book is breath-taking and one can suspect that Alexander Gillespie's books will become the mandatory starting point for anyone wishing to study the history of the laws of war in the future.” –  Vincent Roobaert, NATO Legal Gazette, Issue 27

“...libraries and professors who focus on the many elements of the [law of war] would be wise to have all three volumes at hand. Together, they provide a vivid, detailed, and especially readable account of the [law of war]. This set is destined to be described by all holders as a richly adorned, and affordable, research treasure trove.” –  American Society of International Law Newsletter, Issue #43

“Review of A History of the Laws of War and The Causes of War, Volume 1
…unique and of unquestionable relevance… both works are appreciable for the impressive quantity of the historical and legally pertinent materials gathered by the author. This is useful from the perspective of understanding the background of today's rules on the recourse to armed force and international humanitarian law.
” –  Carlo Focarelli, Italian Yearbook of International Law, Volume 23, 2013

“The scourge of war never ends. If we are ever to be rid of it we need to understand the warlike history of homo sapiens. Professor Gillespie in his unique work tells us what we need to know. Will we heed it?” –  Sir Geoffrey Palmer, former, Prime Minister of New Zealand, President of the New Zealand Law Commission, and chair of the UN Inquiry Panel into the Gaza Bound Flotilla of 2010,

“The law impacts on modern military operations at all levels. The importance of understanding the influence of international law, and the constraints, which it places upon the conduct of armed conflict, is an essential area of study. Dr Alexander Gillespie's three volume work traces the development and scope of this law from the earliest times through the modern day. In doing so he identifies constant themes and common principles in the law, as well, unfortunately, as all too common breaches. Commanders and historians, as well as lawyers, will find this book of great value. It is written in a practical and useful style and brings to light many fascinating examples of the law at work in times of war from which contemporary lessons can be learned.” –  Brigadier Kevin Riordan, Director General of Defence Legal Services for the New Zealand Defence Forces,

“The span of scholarship on offer in these volumes is astonishing…an extraordinary gathering of historical and legal materials many of which record the most sombre and tragic events of human history - war in all its terrible forms.” –  Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand,

“At a time of real challenge, Alexander Gillespie is to be commended for his monumental and significant contribution to our understanding of the context, practice and principles that govern war and armed conflict. This vital book is an indispensable part of any library, and will be a necessary resource for governments, NGOs, international organisers, academics and lawyers involved in the issues.” –  Professor Philippe Sands QC, University College London,

“This is a comprehensive and comprehensible account of the laws of, against and about war. It is both authoritative and accessible - Alexander Gillespie's great achievement is to provide a map for a better future, in which the inevitable horrors of armed conflict are recognised and minimised, and those who instigate them unlawfully are punished by international courts. This is a must-read for all concerned to ensure that war laws do not end up in the graveyard of good words.” –  Geoffrey Robertson QC, founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers, author of Crimes Against Humanity (Penguin and The New Press),

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