It’s a trap! Re-thinking Samuel Moyn’s humane beyond the North Atlantic

Alonso Gurmendi Dunkelberg

Research output: Contribution to journalScientific reviewpeer-review


Samuel Moyn’s latest book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, offers a compelling re-reading of the history of the laws of war not as the precursors of international humanitarian law, but as enablers of what he calls “inhumane war”. Instead of advancing the cause of humanization of war, Moyn argues in favour of pacificism and the abolition of war in its entirety. And yet, Moyn’s decision to tell his history through two interconnected but different parts – one on the broader history of the laws of war and another on the very recent present of US domestic politics – forces the book to embrace a North Atlantic, Anglo-American vision of international law that robs it of valuable insights from the Global South and its relationship to the same body of laws. In this review essay, I explore these missed connections seeking to offer a more global approach to the history of war and peace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-360
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Alonso Gurmendi Dunkelberg, 2021


  • Anti-imperialism
  • Global south histories
  • History of international law
  • Humanization of war
  • Japan
  • Latin America
  • Laws of war
  • Pacifism
  • South Africa


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