John Westlake was a British lawyer and legal scholar who made significant contributions to the field of international law in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in 1828, Westlake studied law at Trinity College, Cambridge and was called to the bar in 1852. He practised law for a time, but eventually turned his attention to academia and became a professor of international law at Cambridge University. Westlake's interest in international law was spurred by his involvement in the legal affairs of the British Empire, which was expanding rapidly during this period. He became a member of the British Society of International Law, which was founded in 1886, and served as the editor of the society's journal, The British Year Book of International Law, for many years. Westlake is best known for his two-volume work on international law, which was published in the late 1890s. "International Law: Part I. Peace" (1894) and "International Law: Part II. War" (1898) examined the legal principles and rules that govern the relationships between states and other international actors, as well as the rights and obligations of states in times of war.
In "International Law: Part I. Peace," Westlake examined the sources of international law, including treaties, custom, and general principles, and discussed the law of nations, which is the body of rules that govern the conduct of states in their relations with one another. He also addressed the role of international organizations, such as the League of Nations and the United Nations, in the maintenance of international peace and security. Westlake argued that the law of nations, or jus gentium, was a universal system of law that applied to all states and was based on principles of justice and fairness. He believed that the law of nations was essential to the maintenance of international peace and order, and that it was the duty of states to uphold and respect this system of law.
In "International Law: Part II. War," Westlake turned his attention to the law of war, which is the body of rules that govern the conduct of states in times of armed conflict. He discussed the rules of engagement, the treatment of prisoners of war, and the rules governing the conduct of hostilities, as well as the rules governing the use of force by states in self-defense.
Westlake emphasized the importance of international humanitarian law, which is the body of rules that seek to mitigate the suffering caused by armed conflict. He argued that the law of war should be guided by the principle of humanity, which requires that states take steps to minimize the harm caused to civilians and non-combatants during armed conflict.
Westlake's contributions to international law have had a lasting impact and his work is still widely cited and studied today. His two-volume work on international law remains an important resource for scholars and practitioners of international law, and his insights and analysis continue to be relevant to contemporary issues and challenges in the field.
In addition to his work on international law, Westlake also made contributions to other areas of legal scholarship, including the law of evidence and the law of real property. He was widely respected as a legal scholar and was influential in shaping the development of international law during a critical period in its history.
These are loosely inspired notes from The Collected Papers of John Westlake on Public International Law: https://www.cambridge.org/in/academic/subjects/law/public-international-law/collected-papers-john-westlake-public-international-law#bookPeople