For my dearest encouragers(I made this up), friends and strangers alike, my only thoughts I am proud to share amidst my abandonment of writing.
In the hustle and bustle of the information age, news is read at the scrolling of your fingertips and spread by the irrational tweets of a leader of the free world. There is no scarcity of access to knowledge. The history of international law has long been littered with wars, treaties and failed organizations that displayed a pseudo-sense of unity and interpreted with a largely Eurocentric view. I submit that the invention of the printing press and its subsequent modern off spring in the form of internet, have significantly impacted the course of international law.
The European renaissance was a time of great ingenuity[, invention and a birth of secular views. The West needed to catch up to the East who already had their own forms of printing and paper. Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith created the first mechanical apparatus. Hence, the first printed book in the west, the Gutenberg Bible, came to be. This monumental invention set in motion the spread of information and the far-reaching consequences. Scholars had exact replicas of portable books brimming with content ranging from science to politics and literacy rates increased. It was an affordable and readily available for public consumption. Due to its popularity, printing presses were established all over Europe and subsequently around the world.
It has been stated that, what gunpowder did for war the printing press has done for the mind. Specifically, in her book Elizabeth Einstein[ looks at how the printing press spread the protestant faith. The press facilitated the spread of the word of God. The Catholic Church could not make changes to their printed editions, thus the Protestant church benefited from interpretations that became publicized by the press editions. Simultaneously, the press advanced academic and scientific views on life and religious beliefs, which have been competing for centuries. Religious doctrines have long been the underlying reason for many wars, particularly between Christian sects and now “the war on terror” which directly implicates the world view on Islam.
Beyond the spread of books, the science of cartography began to thrive. In the Netherlands, famous atlases were created and the modern projection map made by Geradus Mercator. The well detailed maps aided the European explorers in navigating new worlds. The press extensively published the travel accounts of these explorers notably “The Columbus Letter”[. It caught the attention of merchants seeking new lands for goods and exploitation, which amplified the spread of trade and capitalism.
Furthermore, a very significant and prominent form of print is the old age newspaper. While it may be facing extinction today and overcome by the virtual world, it was once a staple that insured the public was informed. It remained filled with adverts aiding capitalism, war announcements and scandals that shook the public. It defined the way society was perceived. The thoughts and ideals of the time were so easily circulated. During World War 1], printing presses were established at the trenches by the British which gave insights into the lives of soldiers and promoted the call to arms, much like Uncle Sam in America.
The freedom to publish set in motion different conflicting views. These challenge perceptions of thought and can be so dangerous to a government, that censorship exists. Hitler’s Mein Kampf[ filled Germany, while he banned material on communism. He distorted the way his citizens thought by limiting their access to information. This misinformed society, plagued with propaganda, ultimately gave way to World War 2. A more recent example of this would be communist China, famous for its censorship in the modern form, on the internet and more severely in North Korea.
International law became codified in a sense. Ideas brimming in the minds of lawyers could be put to paper and consumed by scholars and the masses alike. It is rather elitist, considering it would be the western views on international law taking precedent to be taught, studied and published. Today, in the post-colonial world, the thoughts of more scholars and lawyers of colour have made their way to the printing presses or web-pages and challenge every view originally had by international lawyers in the past. It invites critique and encourages new and meaningful discussions with inclusions on TWAIL versus timelines of European Treaties.
The words of god found their way to far reaching continents, scientific breakthroughs reached new heights, new land was “discovered” and colonized, and the course of history and international law were documented by fresh ink. When we recognize there is a society of states, we recognize there is international law, and what is society beyond a collection of ideas that define them?