Thu, June 17, 2021

The Laws of Armed Conflict: A Historical View

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The laws of war, while widely adopted by countries all over the world today, are a relatively recent invention in their current form. During the American Civil War, Franz Lieber, a German immigrant, professor, and writer, laid the ground work for the laws of armed conflict as they exist today. Join us on June 17, 2021, at 6:30 PM EDT, as the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania welcomes Yale Law Professor and author, Dr. John Fabian Witt to live-stream his lecture, The Law of Armed Conflict: A Historical View, where he will discuss both the ethical considerations and the important historical context surrounding the laws of armed conflict for military leaders today.

This free ZOOM lecture is made possible by the Army Heritage Center Foundation. Register in advance at to receive a confirmation email containing information about joining this lecture. To submit questions during the lecture, use the Q&A icon on the ZOOM website.

Beginning with the history of the U.S. Army’s use of a newly issued code defining the law of war for Union troops, Dr. Witt’s presentation will discuss both the historical background and the ethical quandaries of the law of armed conflict. He will discuss the competing principles of the inherent humanitarianism and the simultaneous pursuit of justice that drives the use of these laws. Though significantly evolved from the 19th century, the evolution of Lieber’s Code to the current law of armed conflict remains an important topic for consideration by military leaders as they contemplate the significance of what Dr. Witt calls the “deep moral contradiction” of those laws today.

Dr. John Fabian Witt holds a J.D. and a Ph.D. in history from Yale and is Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He is the author of a number of books, including American Contagions: Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19 and Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History, which was awarded the Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has written for The New Republic, The New York Times, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He has been a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.