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Institution: University of Melbourne

Period of stay: 4 October - 9 December 2021









Boyd van Dijk is a McKenzie Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He taught previously at the London School of Economics, King's College London, Queen Mary, and the University of Amsterdam. He studied Political Science and History in Amsterdam, Istanbul, Florence, and at Columbia University. He has published a monograph, articles, and essays for the American Journal of International Law, Humanity, Law and History Review, Yad Vashem Studies, Past & Present, as well as Dutch magazines and newspapers. His new book reconstructing the making of the 1949 Geneva Conventions is coming out soon with Oxford University Press.

Research Area:

International Humanitarian Law

Research Title:

The Making and Breaking of the Geneva Conventions in a Global World

Research Outline:

My project goes to the heart of questions of international humanitarian law (IHL). It pro-vides a missing empirical account of the history of the Geneva Conventions in post-1949 spaces of humanitarian action, from the Algerian War of Independence, through the armed struggle against Apartheid in South Africa and the Vietnam War, to the making of the Additional Protocols in the 1970s. This project aims to understand how the politics of IHL in armed conflicts has influenced foundational ideas about the enduring norms that shape armed conflict today.

With this in mind, the project seeks to address two broad research aims. First, it aims to examine the entangled foundations of IHL, exploring the relationship between human rights, ideas of self-determination, the Cold War, and decolonization in the period from the 1950s up until the late 1970s. Secondly, it seeks to analyze which factors impact the practice of IHL, focusing on how especially postcolonial states, socialist powers, and non-state actors have laid the foundations for contemporary IHL.

This project is significant because it traces the causes of why different actors engaged with IHL and the extent to which this has transformed the nature of international institu-tions, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations. By exam-ining the historical interactions of Global South actors, and by analyzing their contribu-tions to IHL, the project also offers policy-relevant insights about IHL amidst new global challenges with an eye towards strengthening its record of compliance.


1. 'Human Rights in War: On the Entangled Foundations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions,' American Journal of International Law (2018): 553-582.
2.  '“The Great Humanitarian”: The Soviet Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Geneva Conventions of 1949,' Law and History Review (2019): 209-235.
3. 'Internationalizing Colonial War: On the Unintended Consequences of the Interventions of the International Committee of the Red Cross in South-East Asia, 1945-1949,' Past & Present (2020): 243-283.

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