Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Territorial integrity in the archives: the contingency of territorial geopolitics?

The territorial integrity principle enjoys a central position in the international legal doctrine. It articulates a guarantee of states' exclusive territoriality, orients the modern international system around state sovereignty and seeks to derive order from territorial fixity. In this system territorial borders may only be changed by the consent of the states concerned and, moreover, a 'classical' view of borders has been superseded through the adoption of territorial integrity as the norms of international society have been globalised.

But there is nothing essential or timelessly 'true' about the territorial integrity principle even if it is often depicted in those terms. Its current centrality to international order is dependent on a 'good fit' with a particular geopolitical vision. While its roots can certainly be discerned much earlier, it was after 1945 and within the context of an American-sponsored geopolitical order, that territorial integrity became a structuring principle. This marked a stage in a process that had not been uncontested. In this article, consideration of archival material allows for the illustration of the way in which one of the US' closest partners, the UK, considered organising collective security around a guarantee of territorial integrity to be undesirable. While it is impossible to say how an alternative vision would have structured international affairs in the post-World War II world, it is still intriguing to consider the motivations of the UK government in resisting the implementation of a guarantee that became so central to the preservation of order in the post-1945 world.

Read the full article here.

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