On 23 October 2003, Professor Brian Simpson FBA delivered the Maccabaean Lecture in Jurisprudence, in which he took a wry look at the influence (if any) of international law on the conduct of states in relation to the use of force. To give this topical subject an historical perspective, Professor Simpson considered the role of international law in two cases of military action taken by the British in Norwegian territorial waters in early 1940, in spite of Norway’s neutrality – the first of them the interception by the Royal Navy of the German ship Altmark. This edited extract discusses the development of British thinking prior to the Altmark incident.
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