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Dr Megan Donaldson's picture

Email

md718@cam.ac.uk

Faculty Contact Details

Room: LCIL Room 11

BA (Hons), LLB (University of Melbourne); LLM (Legal Theory); JSD (NYU School of Law)
Junior Research Fellow in the History of International Law

Interests

Megan works broadly in the history and theory of international law. In collaborative work with Benedict Kingsbury, she has explored governance and law in contemporary international institutions, with a particular focus on transparency in international organizations; public law and constitutional values; and the use of languages of (public) law in global governance (see SSRN). 

More recent work has a particular focus on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century development of the international legal order. Her article, 'Survival of the Secret Treaty: Publicity, Secrecy and Legality in the International Order' won the Francis Deák prize (2017), awarded annually for the leading article by a younger author in the American Journal of International Law. She is currently preparing a monograph, from her doctoral dissertation, tracing ideas and practices of secrecy and publicity in the international legal order. This research focuses on the interwar years as a foundational period in which an expanding franchise, and the experience of industrialized warfare, gave impetus to new demands for publicity of diplomacy – but triggered in turn the modernization, reformulation and legitimation of a liberal secrecy regarding foreign relations which subsists today. The book addresses dynamics of secrecy and publicity in particular in diplomatic relations; the workings of League bodies; the management of treaties; disarmament and arms control; and intelligence. Across these areas she traces how the regulation of secrecy moves in and out of juridical frames, found sometimes in political and bureaucratic custom, or diplomatic etiquette, but crystallized also in the public law of states. The work draws on archives of the League of Nations Secretariat, and of foreign ministries in Britain, France and the United States.

She is interested in methodological dimensions of the interaction between law and history: what might be said about the way each approaches texts and material evidence; how different kinds of historical scholarship (imperial, global, diplomatic, social, cultural) might engage differently with law; and the possibilities for more fruitful collaboration between these fields in future. With Martti Koskenniemi and Annabel Brett, she is editing a volume 'History, Politics, Law: Thinking through the International', which aims to extend the methodological and theoretical work initiated at a conference held, at Cambridge, in 2016; and will contribute a chapter to this collection, 'Ventriloquism in Geneva: The League of Nations as International Institution'.

With Dr Surabhi Ranganathan, she convenes the Legal Histories beyond the State seminar series.

Other current projects include:

  • An article, 'The League of Nations, Ethiopia and the Making of States', arguing that debates around Ethiopia's admission to the League in 1923 suggest new complexities to the history of legal and political thought about statehood and state-making in the twentieth century (forthcoming (2019) 11 Humanity);
  • A chapter, 'The Boundaries of Peace: British Imperial Encounters, c.1700–1900', which examines the faultline between scholarship on imperial practices, on one hand, and a literature on 'peace-making' and 'peace agreements', focused on the interrelations of European powers, on the other (forthcoming in Weller, Retter & Varga (eds), International Law and Peace Settlements (CUP); and 
  • An article, ‘The Afterlife of François de Callières: Rewriting the Relation between Diplomacy and Intelligence in the Early Twentieth Century’, which examines how British and European diplomatic manuals of the interwar period rehabilitated a certain measure of ‘diplomatic secrecy’ by distancing this from more clandestine intelligence-gathering and subversion.

CV / Biography

Prior to postgraduate study, Megan worked in corporate litigation, and served as an Associate to Justice Hayne of the High Court of Australia.

 

Publications

 

Articles

"The Survival of the Secret Treaty: Publicity, Secrecy and Legality in the International Order" 111(3) American Journal of International Law (2017)

Citation:
111(3) American Journal of International Law (2017)
Published:
Sep 2017

"Textual Settlements: The Sykes–Picot Agreement and Secret Treaty-Making" 110 AJIL Unbound 127 (2016)

"Ersatz Normativity or Public Law in Global Governance: The Hard Case of International Prescriptions for National Infrastructure Regulation (with Benedict Kingbsury)" 14 Chicago Journal of International Law 1-51 (2013)

Co-Author/s:
Benedict Kingsbury
Citation:
14 Chicago Journal of International Law 1-51 (2013)
Published:
Aug 2013

Book Chapters

"Global Administrative Law and Deliberative Democracy" in Benedict Kingsbury and Rodrigo Vallejo, The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law (Oxford University Press), pp. 526-542

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Pages:
526-542
Published Date:
Aug 2016
Co-Author/s:
Benedict Kingsbury and Rodrigo Vallejo

"Values in Australian Constitutionalism (with Cheryl Saunders) " in , An Inquiry into the Existence of Global Values: Through the Lens of Comparative Constitutional Law (Hart)

Publisher:
Hart
Published Date:
Aug 2015

"The Global Governance of Public Law (with Benedict Kingsbury)" in , After Public Law (Oxford University Press)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Published Date:
Aug 2013

"Roles of Law in the Regulatory States of the South (with Benedict Kingsbury)" in , The Rise of the Regulatory State of the South (Oxford University Press)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Published Date:
Aug 2013

"Power and the Public: The Nature and Effects of Formal Transparency Policies in Global Governance Institutions (with Benedict Kingsbury)" in , Transparency in Public International Law (Cambridge University Press)

Publisher:
Cambridge University Press
Published Date:
Aug 2012

"From Bilateralism to Publicness in International Law (with Benedict Kingsbury)" in , From Bilateralism to Community Interest: Essays in Honour of Judge Bruno Simma (Oxford University Press)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Published Date:
Aug 2011

Conference Papers

" International Organizations and the Making of Modern Legal Histories" (Comments on Guy Fiti Sinclair's To Reform the World: International Organizations and the Making of Modern States)

Published:
Oct 2017
Conference:
Comments on Guy Fiti Sinclair's To Reform the World: International Organizations and the Making of Modern States

"From secret diplomacy to diplomatic secrecy: contemporary approaches to secrecy of and about interstate relations" (Manchester Workshop on Political Theory, workshop on 'Democratic Secrecy')

Published:
Sep 2016
Conference:
Manchester Workshop on Political Theory, workshop on 'Democratic Secrecy'

"Lettres familières and secret d'état: diplomacy between epistolary culture and the archive of the state" (Workshop on Early Modern Literature, Form and International Law (University of Bristol)

Published:
Jul 2016
Conference:
Workshop on Early Modern Literature, Form and International Law (University of Bristol

"Ventriloquism in Geneva: The Idea of the International Organization" (History, Politics, Law: Thinking through the International (University of Cambridge)

Published:
May 2016
Conference:
History, Politics, Law: Thinking through the International (University of Cambridge