The question whether international law affects the conduct of states, particularly in relation to the use of force, is the subject of a considerable literature, much of it a general and theoretical nature. In this lecture an attempt will be made to address this question from an empirical standpoint, making use of archival material now available to scholars. The lecture will investigate a particular historical event, the decision to authorise the laying of mines by the Royal Navy in Norwegian territorial waters in 1940, and the role which international law played or did not play in the decision of the United Kingdom government to take this action. The aim is to use this investigation to shed light on more general issues of legal theory, which centre on the difficult issue of the relationship between law and conduct.
Professor Brian Simpson FBA