Dr Jan Lemnitzer

Fixed Term Fellow in History
01865 276445

Detailed Biography

College Function

Lecturer in History


  • History Faculty
  • Changing Character of War Programme
  • War Crimes Trials and Investigations Research Network

Teaching Activities

  • 19th and 20th century international history (GHIV, GHXI-XIV, GHXVIII)
  • Approaches to History and Disciplines of History papers
  • History of the Third Reich and the Second World War

Research Interests

My research looks at how modern international law was created in the 19th century, how it came to be applied across the globe and what that meant for international politics. I have just published a book called Power, Law and the End of Privateering with Palgrave Macmillan, which explains why the 1856 Declaration of Paris marks a forgotten turning point in this story, inventing the main method we still use today to create new international law. It also highlights how its rules were enforced successfully in the major wars of the second half of the 19th century, before it was dismantled at the beginning of the First World War.

My postdoctoral project is called ‘Why is killing civilians bad? The history of a modern debate, 1848-1915’ and is an inquiry into when and why the idea that killing civilians was not only deplorable but illegal became a global norm. Humanitarian intervention was not invented in the 1990s, but we know very little about its 19th century precedents. The aim of my research is to find out how this new norm was created and enforced, and why it spread so quickly beyond Europe. While the new rule for protecting civilians was never applied by any imperial power in its colonial policing, it did ultimately spell the end for ‘gunboat diplomacy’. Starting with the outrage against the brutal repression of the 1848 revolutions, I will show how our modern notions of ‘war crimes’ were formed.

Recent Publications

  • Power, Law and the End of Privateering, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, March 2014
  • ‘That moral league of nations against the United States’ – The Origins of the 1856 Declaration of Paris and the Abolition of Privateering’, International History Review, Volume 35, no. 5, pp. 1068-1088.

  • ‘La déclaration de Paris, le ‘’blocus effectif’’ et la contrebande: l’utilité du blocus naval en tant qu’arme stratégique dans un monde en mutation’ (The Declaration of Paris, ‘effective blockade’ and contraband: the utility of naval blockade as a strategic weapon in a changing world’), in: Jean de Preneuf, Eric Grove and Andrew Lambert (eds.), Entre Ter et Mer: L'occupation militaire des espaces maritimes et littoraux, Economica, Paris, February 2014, pp. 69-89.

  • ‘Legal, political and moral restraints on naval bombardment in the 19th century’, in: Howard Fuller (ed.), Twixt Sea & Shore: The Reality of ‘Deterrence’ in the Pax Britannica, Naval Institute Press, forthcoming 2014.

  • Review of Antony D’Agostino, The Rise of Global Powers: International Politics in the Era of the World Wars, in RUSI Journal, Vol. 157/IV (August 2012), p. 96-7.

  • Review of Matthew Seligmann, The Royal Navy and the German Threat, 1901-1914: Admiralty Plans to Protect British Trade in a War against Germany, in War in History, Vol. 20/IV (November 2013), p. 567-569.