2020 ESIL Book Prize

Although the 16th ESIL Annual Conference has been postponed until 2021, the ESIL Book Prize for 2020 will be awarded this calendar year. The prizewinner(s) will be announced in October 2020 and a virtual celebration is also being planned.

Philippa Webb is the ESIL Board member coordinating the 2020 Prize, please contact her with any questions.

The deadline for submitting books to be considered for the 2020 Prize was 20 January 2020. Publishers are advised to read the ESIL BOOK PRIZE GUIDELINES before submitting books.


2019 ESIL Book Prize Winners












The 2019 European Society of International Law Book Prize jury unanimously decided to award the 2019 prize ex equo to John Linarelli, Margot E. Salomon and Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah for The Misery of International Law: Confrontations with Injustice in the Global Economy, Oxford University Press, and Alejandro Rodiles for Coalitions of the Willing and International Law: The Interplay between Formality and Informality, Cambridge University Press.

The ESIL Book Prize jury evaluated a wide range of books published in 2018 submitted for consideration by leading international law publishers. The jury members for this year’s Prize were Enzo Cannizzaro (Sapienza University, Rome),  Carlos Esposito (University of Madrid) and Evelyne Lagrange (University of Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne).

The jury explained their decision as follows:

A number of reasons accounted for this award: excellent methodology, analytical accuracy, quality of writing and originality of their conclusions. At first sight, the books have little in common. Linarelli, Salomon and Sornarajah strive to demonstrate how deceptive international law could be, producing immiseration rather than global justice, and that it can but perpetuate ‘capitalist structures’ and provide for thin corrective measures only. Rodiles strives to unravel coalitions of the willing – mostly the most powerful ones – built for the achievement of common goals without formal commitments and outside institutional frameworks. A global adamant critic of international law as it has always been, on the one hand; a nuanced approach to informal, but still formalizable cooperation based on burden-sharing among able and willing states, on the other hand. A strong, all-embracing critic versus an ingenious account of sectorial practices enriched with moderate critic. Nevertheless, both books have in common the ambition to overpass the limits of positive international law arguments and to frame their analysis in a wider context which includes philosophy, theory of justice and economics (in Linarelli, Salomon and Sornarajah) and sociology and theory of language (in Rodiles), thus reinvigorating classical normative analysis with arguments pertaining to other social sciences. Even more importantly, both books highlight, albeit in different ways, some quite neglected features of international law: the (co-)existence of spheres of normativity corresponding to divergent or conflicting logics, hardly consistent with a universalist perspective; the secret and almost invisible ways through which the power is exercised, bypassing legitimate institutions or organised groups of interest, and ultimately heavily weighting on the daily life of individuals, at a time of globalization without global instances of justice. None of the two books can be said to unveil the ultimate truth on what international law really is or will be. Both provide, however, for vivid pictures of international law and its underlying social realities, sometimes obfuscated by purely technical legal analyses. In a nutshell, and borrowing an expression from one of the authors, both books prompt reflections on “the old dream of international law as a universal project”.

The ESIL Annual Conference in Athens in September 2019 included a conversation with some of the authors about the prize-winning books, and the awards were presented during the conference dinner.


Previous Book Prize winners: 

  • ESIL Book Prize 2018: Dr. Guy Fiti Sinclair (Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Law) for his book To Reform the World: International Organizations and the Making of Modern States, OUP, 2017.
  • ESIL Book Prize 2017: Prof. James A. Green (Professor of Public International Law at the University of Reading) for his book The Persistent Objector Rule in International Law, OUP, 2016
  • ESIL Book Prize 2016: Dr Arnulf Becker Lorca (Visiting  Assistant Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Helsinki) Mestizo International Law: A Global Intellectual History 1842-1933, CUP, 2015
  • ESIL Book Prize 2015:  Monica Garcia-Salmones Rovira (Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Helsinki) The Project of Positivism in International Law, OUP, 2014
  • ESIL Book Prize 2014Sandesh Sivakumaran (University of Nottingham), The Law of Non-International Armed Conflict, Oxford University Press 2012; Ingo Venzke (University of Amsterdam), How Interpretation Makes International Law. On Semantic Change and Normative Twists, OUP, 2012
  • ESIL Book Prize 2012Michael Waibel (Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge), Sovereign Defaults before International Courts and Tribunals, CUP, 2011
  • ESIL Book Prize 2010: Lorenzo Gradoni (University of Bologna), Regime Failure nel diritto internazionale, CEDAM, 2009
  • ESIL Book Prize 2008: Matthew Craven (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), The Decolonization of International Law: State Succession and the Law of Treaties, OUP, 2007