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.



chapter 1|26 pages

The medieval contribution to modern international relations

ByWilliam Bain

chapter 2|15 pages

The medieval and the international

A strange case of mutual neglect
ByNicholas Rengger

chapter 3|23 pages

Metaphysics and the problem of international order 1

ByC. J. C. Pickstock

chapter 4|19 pages

Secularism in question

Hugo Grotius's ‘impious hypothesis’ again
ByFrancis Oakley

chapter 5|18 pages

Between false-universalism and radical-particularism

Thoughts on Thomas Hobbes and international relations
ByJoshua Mitchell

chapter 6|15 pages

The medieval Roman and canon law origins of international law

ByJoseph Canning

chapter 7|15 pages

Then and now

The medieval conception of just war versus recent portrayals of the just war idea
ByJames Turner Johnson

chapter 8|16 pages

Humanitarian intervention in a world of sovereign states

The Grotian dilemma
ByJames Muldoon

chapter 9|18 pages

The medieval and early modern legacy of rights

The rights to punish and to property
ByCamilla Boisen, David Boucher

chapter 10|20 pages

International relations and the ‘modern’ Middle Ages

Rival theological theorisations of international order
ByAdrian Pabst