1st Edition

Medieval Foundations of International Relations

Edited By William Bain Copyright 2017
    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    The purpose of this volume is to explore the medieval inheritance of modern international relations. Recent years have seen a flourishing of work on the history of international political thought, but the bulk of this has focused on the early modern and modern periods, leaving continuities with the medieval world largely ignored. The medieval is often used as a synonym for the barbaric and obsolete, yet this picture does not match that found in relevant work in the history of political thought. The book thus offers a chance to correct this misconception of the evolution of Western international thought, highlighting that the history of international thought should be regarded as an important dimension of thinking about the international and one that should not be consigned to history departments.

    Questions addressed include:

    • what is the medieval influence on modern conception of rights, law, and community?

    • how have medieval ideas shaped modern conceptions of self-determination, consent, and legitimacy?

    • are there ‘medieval’ answers to ‘modern’ questions?

    • is the modern world still working its way through the Middle Ages?

    • to what extent is the ‘modern outlook’ genuinely secular?

    • is there a ‘theology’ of international relations?

    • what are the implications of continuity for predominant historical narrative of the emergence and expansion of international society?


    Medieval and modern are certainly different; however, this collection of essays proceeds from the conviction that the modern world was not built on a new plot with new building materials. Instead, it was constructed out of the rubble, that is, the raw materials, of the Middle Ages.This will be of great interest to students and scholars of IR, IR theory and political theory.



    1. The Medieval Contribution to Modern International Relations

    [William Bain]

    2. The Medieval and the International: A Strange Case of Mutual Neglect

    [Nicholas Rengger]

    3. Metaphysics and the Problem of International Order

    [C.J.C Pickstock]

    4. Secularism in Question: Hugo Grotius’s ‘Impious Hypothesis’ Again

    [Francis Oakley]

    5. Between False-Universalism and Radical-Particularism: Thoughts on Thomas Hobbes and International Relations

    [Joshua Mitchell]

    6. The Medieval Roman and Canon Law Origins of International Law

    [Joseph Canning]

    7. Then and Now: The Medieval Conception of Just War Versus Recent Portrayals of the Just War Idea

    [James Turner Johnson]

    8. Humanitarian Intervention in a World of Sovereign States: The Grotian Dilemma

    [James Muldoon]

    9. The Medieval and Early Modern Legacy of Rights: The Rights to Punish and to Property

    [Camilla Boisen and David Boucher]

    10. International Relations and the ‘Modern’ Middle Ages: Rival Theological Theorisations of International Order

    [Adrian Pabst]


    William Bain is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore. His research engages questions of international political theory and Internationa Relations Theory, with a specific focus on the theological foundations of international relations.

    'This is a landmark volume in the history of international thought. It collects together nine essays by a multidisciplinary team of historians, international relations theorists, and philosophers to consider the debt modern international society owes to the European Middle Ages and the neglected intellectual resources medieval thinking might offer the present...This is, in short, an impressive collection of essays – a must-read for normative theorists interested in international relations, for political theorists concerned with the origins of modernity, as well as historians of international thought.'

    Ian Hall, Griffith University, Australia

    "Medieval foundations of International Relations stood out for me - perhaps counterintuitively for a book that has 'medieval' in its title - for how relevant it seems to understanding the changes in international relations we are facing today. Contributors look at questions such as the extension of international society, just war theory and humanitarian intervention."

    Krisztina Csortea is the Book Reviews Editor for International Affairs

    "… not only medievalists and International Relations scholars but those from a range of humanities and social science disciplines will engage with this volume. Not only does it display an impressive intellectual range – political theory, metaphysics, jurisprudence, theology – but it also showcases expansive research that forces the reader to tackle new subjects of interest as well as rethink approaches to subjects they thought they knew."

    Rory Cox, University of St. Andrews, UK, writing for Global Intellectual History

    "….all chapters explicitly strive to address core IR concerns and do so without falling short of disciplinary standards. This not only contributes to the effectiveness of the overall IR argument but also, as Canning notes in his c