Professor Gerry Simpson

Professor Gerry Simpson

Professor of Public International Law

LSE Law School

Room No
Cheng Kin Ku Building 5.12
Key Expertise
International law, War, War Crimes, Diplomacy, Immunity, Nuclear War

About me

Gerry Simpson was appointed to a Chair in Public International Law at the LSE in January, 2016. He previously taught at the University of Melbourne (2007-2015), the Australian National University (1995-1998) and LSE (2000-2007) and has held visiting positions at ANU, Melbourne, NYU and Harvard. He is the author of Great Powers and Outlaw States (Cambridge, 2004), winner of the American Society of International Law Annual Prize for Creative Scholarship in 2005 and Law, War and Crime: War Crimes Trials and the Reinvention of International Law (Polity 2007), and co-editor (with Kevin Jon Heller) of Hidden Histories (Oxford, 2014) and (with Raimond Gaita) of Who’s Afraid of International Law? (Monash, 2016). His most recent book is The Sentimental Life of International Law: Literature, Language and Longing in Global Politics (Oxford, 2021). Gerry is now writing a book on the Cold War and a meditation on nuclearism entitled: The Atomics: My Nuclear Family at the End of the Earth. Gerry is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Administrative support:

Research interests

Gerry’s current work is an ARC-funded project on the Cold War and International Law (with Matt Craven (SOAS) and Sundhya Pahuja (Melbourne). International Law and the Cold War (eds. Craven, Pahuja, Simpson) was published in 2020 by Cambridge University Press. Cold War International Law: Lawful Interregnum is a monograph currently being written (with Craven and Pahuja) for publication by Cambridge University Press in 2022.  Gerry is also writing a philosophical meditation on nuclearism entitled: The Atomics: My Nuclear Family at the End of the Earth.

Gerry is the Joint Editor-in-Chief of The London Review of International Law and a regular essayist and contributor for Arena Magazine.



The Sentimental Life of International Law (Oxford University Press, 2021)

The Sentimental Life of International Law is about our age-old longing for a decent international society and the ways of seeing, being, and speaking that might help us achieve that aim. This book asks how international lawyers might engage in a professional practice that has become, to adapt a title of Janet Malcolm's, both difficult and impossible. It suggests that international lawyers are disabled by the governing idioms of international lawyering, and proposes that they may be re-enabled by speaking different sorts of international law, or by speaking international law in different sorts of ways. In this methodologically diverse and unusually personal account, Gerry Simpson brings to the surface international law's hidden literary prose and offers a critical and redemptive account of the field. He does so in a series of chapters on international law's bathetic underpinnings, its friendly relations, the neurotic foundations of its underlying social order, its screened-off comic dispositions, its anti-method, and the life-worlds of its practitioners. Finally, the book closes with a chapter in which international law is re-envisioned through the practice of gardening. All of this is put forward as a contribution to the project of making international law, again, a compelling language for our times.

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Who’s Afraid of International Law? (Monash University Press, 2015) (ed. with Raimond Gaita)

Is there such a thing as an ‘international law’ of which to be afraid? Can international law be seen as a coherent set of norms? Or is it, rather, something experienced radically differently by different individuals and groups in different parts of the world? And what do the different sets of international law seek to change or justify today?  In Who’s Afraid of International Law? noted authorities in this field respond to Raimond Gaita’s invitation to explore ways in which international law constitutes a certain way of talking and being; one that might have both ameliorative and malign effects. The result is an extended and rich conversation about international law’s aspirations and limitations, its nuances and rigidities, achievements and failures, relevance and irrelevance. 

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The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (OUP, 2013) (ed. with Kevin Heller)

Several instances of war crimes trials are familiar to all scholars, but in order to advance understanding of the development of international criminal law, it is important to provide a full range of evidence from less-familiar trials. This book therefore provides an essential resource for a more comprehensive overview, uncovering and exploring some of the lesser-known war crimes trials that have taken place in a variety of contexts: international and domestic, northern and southern, historic and contemporary. It analyses these trials with a view to recognising institutional innovations, clarifying doctrinal debates, and identifying their general relevance to contemporary international criminal law. At the same time, the book recognises international criminal law's history of suppression or sublimation: What stories has the discipline refused to tell? What stories have been displaced by the ones it has told? Has international criminal law's framing or telling of these stories excluded other possibilities? And - perhaps most important of all - how can recovering the lost stories and imagining new narrative forms reconfigure the discipline?

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Beyond Victor’s Justice: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Revisited  (Martinus Nijhoff) (2011) (ed. with Yuki Tanaka and Tim McCormack) 

The aim of this new collection of essays is to engage in analysis beyond the familiar victor’s justice critiques. The editors have drawn on authors from across the world — including Australia, Japan, China, France, Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom — with expertise in the fields of international humanitarian law, international criminal law, Japanese studies, modern Japanese history, and the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The diverse backgrounds of the individual authors allow the editors to present essays which provide detailed and original analyses of the Tokyo Trial from legal, philosophical and historical perspectives.

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Law, War and Crime : War Crime Trials and the Reinvention of International Law (Polity 2007)

From events at Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II, to the recent trials of Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein, war crimes trials are an increasingly pervasive feature of the aftermath of conflict. In his new book, Law, War and Crime, Gerry Simpson explores the meaning and effect of such trials, and places them in their broader political and cultural contexts. The book traces the development of the war crimes field from its origins in the outlawing of piracy to its contemporary manifestation in the establishment of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

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Great Powers and Outlaw States (Cambridge, 2004)

From the Congress of Vienna to the "war on terrorism", the roles of "great powers and outlaw states" have had a major impact on international relations. Gerry Simpson describes the ways in which an international legal order based on "sovereign equality" has accommodated the great powers and regulated outlaw states since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Simpson also offers a way of understanding recent transformations in the global political order by recalling the lessons of the past--in particular, through the recent violent conflicts in Kosovo and Afghanistan.


Foreword Professor James Crawford; Preface; Acknowledgements; Part I. Introduction: 1. Great powers and outlaw states; Part II. Concepts: 2. Sovereign equalities; 3. Legalised hierarchies; Part III. Histories: Great Powers: 4. Legalised hegemony: Vienna to The Hague 1815–1906; 5. ‘Extreme equality’: rupture at The Hague 1907; 6. The great powers, sovereign equality and the making of the UN charter: San Francisco 1945; 7. Holy alliances: Verona 1818 and Kosovo 1999; Part IV. Histories: Outlaw States: 8. Unequal sovereigns 1815–1839; 9. Peace-loving nations: 1945; 10. Outlaw states: 1999; Part V. Conclusion: 11. Arguing about Afghanistan: great powers and outlaw states redux; 12. The puzzle of sovereignty.

Prize Winner
ASIL: Certificate of Merit for Pre-eminent Contribution to Creative Legal Scholarship

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War Crimes: Volumes I and II (Ashgate, 2004)

The past two decades have witnessed a revival of interest in international criminal law. This renascence has been stimulated by events such as the wars suffered by Sierra Leone and Cambodia, and the establishment of the world's first permanent international criminal court. These volumes consider war crimes law from a theoretical and historical perspective, presenting the finest English-language scholarship on the subject.

'Whatever one's views, this book deserves to be welcomed for making available in one place some of the most informed writings on this contentious subject.' Journal of the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association

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The Nature of International Law, (ed.) Ashgate Press, 2002)


The Law of War Crimes (ed.) Kluwer International (1997) (with Timothy McCormack)