Paolo E. Coletta

Until a global organization competent to extend recognitions binding upon the world can be created, each state handles the question of recognition on the basis of national policy rather than international law. The principle of recognition can be traced back to the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, who asserted that the obligation of a state remains unmodified despite changes made by constitutional, revolutionary, and other means. Given the large number of states and the peaceful or forcible changes often made in them (regular elections or successor states in the first instance; accretion, prescription, conquest, occupation, and cession in the second), and the application of recognition to belligerency as well as to statehood, the question of recognition remains a constant in the conduct of international relations.


Chen, Ti-chiang. The International Law of Recognition, with Special Reference to Practice in Great Britain and the United States. London, 1951. Pays particular attention to the many similarities of international law with respect to recognition policy as adopted by the United States and the United Kingdom.

Goebel, Julius. The Recognition Policy of the United States. New York, 1915. Although dated, provides an excellent account of the recognition policy of the United States for its first century, when it largely followed the de facto principle.

Hackworth, Green Hayward. Digest of International Law. 8 vols. Washington, D.C., 1940–1944. A very careful and learned synthesis of international law subjects by an expert in the U. S. Department of State.

Harcourt, Sir William Vernon. Letters by Historicus on Some Questions of International Law. London-Cambridge, 1863. Explains why war was averted between the United States and United Kingdom despite Lincoln's proclamation of blockade, the Trent affair, and British recognition of Confederate belligerency.

Jaffe, Louis Leventhal. Judicial Aspects of Foreign Relations, in Particular of the Recognition of Foreign Powers. Cambridge, Mass., 1933. Deals mostly with the theory and practice of recognition and nonrecognition and with legal questions involved in recognition.

Kissinger, Henry. White House Years. Boston, 1979. Fully details how Richard Nixon granted recognition to Red China.

Lampe, John R. Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country. 2d ed. Cambridge, 2000. Holds that Yugoslavia failed to develop a sense of common citizenship that could override competing national loyalties.

Lauterpacht, Sir Hersch. Recognition in International Law. Cambridge, U.K., 1947. Written by perhaps the greatest authority on modern international law; includes a close examination of British and American practices in the field.

Moore, John Bassett. A Digest of International Law. 8 vols. Washington, D.C., 1906. Indispensable reference on international law matters.

Oppenheim, L. (Lassa). International Law, A Treatise. 2 vols. 8th ed. Toronto, 1955. Edited by Hersch Lauterpach, London and New York, 1948. Not as extensive as Moore, Hack-worth, or Whiteman but deals separately and clearly with the myriad subjects included in international law.

Silber, Laura, and Allan Little. Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. Rev. ed. Santa Monica, Calif., 1997. Discovery Channel video that covers the history of the Balkans and explains why ethnic conflicts continue to exist.

Tarulis, Albert N. American-Baltic Relations, 1918–1922. Washington, D.C., 1965. Explains why it took the United States four years to recognize the Baltic states after they obtained their independence from Russia in 1918.

Tyler, Patrick. "The (Ab)normalization of U.S.–Chinese Relations." Foreign Affairs 78 (Sept.–Oct. 1999): 122. Concerns the battle between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski over the matter of fully recognizing Red China.

Whiteman, Marjorie M. Digest of International Law. 15 vols. Washington, D.C., 1963–1973. Brings Hackworth and Moore up to date in a learned and meticulous manner, using copious references to the literature of international relations and law.

See also International Law ; Intervention and Nonintervention ; Neutrality ; Revolution ; Self-Determination ; Wilsonianism .

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