David Armitage , Litt.D., Ph.D.

Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History

Harvard University

Born in 1965 in Stockport, UK
Studied History at the University of Cambridge


Treaty Consciousness: a Global History

Treaties may be the most widespread but least well understood elements of the contemporary political and legal order. For the most part unknowingly, we have all become enmeshed in regional and worldwide webs of treaties. Yet just how we became global Gullivers, tangled in treaties, is a question barely touched by recent historians, only intermittently posed by historically minded lawyers, and studied serially mostly by political scientists. "Treaty Consciousness: A Global History" will treat political, legal, and cultural engagement with treaties since the early modern period and across the globe, from Europe and North America to the contemporary Pacific. By treaty consciousness, I mean political, legal, and cultural engagement with treaties by parties affected by their forms, stipulations, and symbolic meanings (for example in art, ceremony, and music). The project aims to expand the understanding of treaties in three main ways: first, by working outwards from the specific agents who created and ratified treaties to the wider publics shaped by the treaties themselves; second, by looking at patterns of treaty-making and their proliferation across time (a longue durée of at least five hundred years) and space (globally as well as regionally); and third, by analyzing treaties as a genre of political thought embodied in material forms whose circulation and reception can be traced well beyond the corpora of treaty texts. In short, I will apply the tools of intellectual and cultural history to explore how both individual treaties and treaties in the aggregate have risen and fallen in the political and legal imaginations of peoples around the world. The project compares the rise and fall of treaty consciousness in the West with the persistence of treaty consciousness among Indigenous peoples, in order to contribute to the critical history of international law, to the history of international society in global context, and to global intellectual history. I hope it might also help to raise consciousness about treaties - their pervasiveness and their provisions - among contemporary democratic publics.

Recommended Reading

Armitage, David. Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. New York: Knopf, 2017.
-. Foundations of Modern International Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
-. The Declaration of Independence: A Global History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Publications from the Fellows' Library

Armitage, David ( 2014)
The international turn in intellectual history

Armitage, David ( Cambridge [u.a.], 1995)
Milton and republicanism Ideas in context ; 35

Armitage, David ( 20)
Cosmopolitanism and civil war