Right of conquest  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The right of conquest is the purported right of a conqueror to territory taken by force of arms. It was sometimes considered a principle of international law from the 16th to the early 20th centuries.

Its defenders state that the acknowledgement of this right is simply an acknowledgement of the status quo, and that denial of the right is meaningless unless one is able and willing to use military force to deny it. Furthermore, they note that granting such a right promotes peace, since it removes the justification for many wars by denying the legitimacy of violating the borders of a nation's de facto area of control. Also, historically strength in battle and fitness to command were not considered separate, (see Trial by Combat, and The Divine Right of Kings.)

Some argue that the idea comes from the fact that there have historically been few "good" leaders, (see King Richard I and Pope Alexander VI.) Conquest proved great military strength, and defence was considered one of the most important elements required of a king (see Lord Protector). Someone appealing to the right of conquest was most likely planning on standing as regent, rather than just robbing a land of its riches (like the Vandals and Mongols are regarded as having done).

Its critics respond that it rewards military aggression and thus may serve to promote rather than prevent war.

The completion of colonial conquest of much of the world (see the Scramble for Africa), the devastation of World War I and World War II, and the alignment of both the United States and the Soviet Union with the principle of self determination led to the abandonment of the right of conquest in formal international law. The 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, the post-1945 Nuremberg Trials, the UN Charter, and the UN role in decolonization saw the progressive dismantling of this principle. Simultaneously, the UN Charter's guarantee of the "territorial integrity" of member states effectively froze out claims against prior conquests from this process.

Conquest and military occupation

In the post-Napoleonic era, the disposition of territory acquired under the principle of conquest must be conducted according to the laws of war. Put simply, this will mean military occupation followed by a peace settlement. If there is a territorial cession, then there must be a formal peace treaty.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Right of conquest" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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