The Law of Contraband of War

Pyke, Harold Reason. The law of contraband of war. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1915; International Law; xl, 314 p. 23 cm.

Bibliographic Details

Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1915

Book Review

It is seldom that a book which is timely-especially if it be a law book-is thoroughly and carefully prepared. Mr. Pyke's study of the law of contraband is an exception. Of its timeliness there can be no question. There is no other branch of international law which upon the outbreak of war becomes of such general interest to the commercial states of the world, whether belligerent or neutral, as does the law of contraband.

Introduction to The Law of Contraband of War

The exercise by belligerents of rights over neutral property which are conceded to them by international law impresses upon neutrals the fact that no nation lives to itself alone and that the commerce of states which are not parties to a war may be seriously affected thereby. It is in connection with the subject of contraband also that the most serious diplomatic controversies between belligerent and neutral states are likely to arise since the interests of the two groups are in direct conflict.

Context of The Law of Contraband of War

There has been no important war in the last three centuries in which complaint has not been made that the belligerent in the exercise of his right to prevent supplies of war material from reaching his enemy was infringing the rights of neutrals. Mr. Pyke states in bold language the principle which governs the attitude of belligerents. “As long as war exists between the great Powers, neutral interests must continue to be subordinated to the exigencies of the belligerents.” This is unpalatable doctrine to a neutral, but it is the doctrine to which every maritime neutral, when belligerent, has appe'aled. The comprehensiveness of Mr. Pyke's study is apparent from his table of contents.

Thesis Statement

After showing that the idea of contraband is as old as the wars of the Greeks and Romans, and then tracing the development of its principles down to our own day, he discusses the position of neutral governments with respect to contraband and the relation of the neutral individual to contraband trade, the dependence of contraband upon destination, the doctrine of continuous voyage, the means by which belligerents may interfere with the carriage of contraband, the penalty for engaging in its carriage, the treatment of contrabahd in the Declaration of London and the principles followed in the course of the Great War.

More about The Law of Contraband of War

Appended to the text are several important documents, the Declaration of London with the General Report of the Drafting Committee, the Orders in Council adopting the Declaration, the Contraband Proclamations of the British Government, the Circular of the American Department of State as to Neutrality and Trade in Contraband, and the Order in Council framing Reprisals against Germany. A feature of the book of particular value is the bibliography, which occupies eighteen closely printed pages and is probably the most complete bibliography of the subject in the English language.

Analysis of the Text

In so small a book-there are only 255 pages of text-the author is justified in imposing severe limitations upon himself. He confines his work in the main to a statement of what the law is without attempting to indicate what the law ought to be. In his discussions of the origin and development of existing rules, however, he frequently indicates the line of future development. His chapter on continuous voyage, for instance, was written, as stated in the preface, before Sir Samuel Evans' famous judgment in The Kim, L. R. [1915] p. 215; 1 but it is plain that that case was decided as Mr. Pyke thinks that it should have been, and in that opinion the present writer begs to concur.

Other Aspects

In his treatment of the relation of prize courts to municipal law, which is an accurate statement of the law as it existed at the time of writing, there is nothing to foreshadow the opinion of the Privy Council in the case of The Zamora, L. R. [1916], 2 A. C. 77.2 Mr. Pyke seems to think that the American Government was over-scrupulous as to its neutral obligations in forbidding the exportation of submarines in sections.

More on this Book Review

This is one of the few instances in which he betrays the fact that he is writing from the standpoint of a subject of a belligerent country. The letter quoted on page 73 and said to be a reply to a protest from France in 1796 was a reply made to the British Minister in 1793. See Moore, Digest, VII, 955. The references to Moore and Taylor in note 1 on page 73 are erroneous. But these are small blemishes in a thoroughly commendable treatment of a difficult and important subject.

Book Review Details

This legal book review was published in:

The American Journal of International Law,Vol. 10, No. 4 (Oct., 1916), pp. 943-945

For Legal Meanings:

References to the legal books also in the Legal Definitions, click here

Leave a Comment