Does International Law Really Matter? 
A Case Study on Compliance with or Breach of Legal Obligations during World War I

Ruined church at Montfaucon

        Welcome to Jaron Sandy's independent study on issues of compliance with international legal obligations during World War I.  This spring 2000 project was undertaken in conjunction with Professor John K. Setear, Caddell and Conwell Research Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia.  This project primarily analyzes two major case studies from the Great War in order to determine the motivations behind compliance and/or breach.  I start from the premise that states will act according to their national interest in all circumstances, with the only possible exception being areas where international law or multilateral treaty constrains the choices available to state governments.  My analysis concludes with an attempt at an answer to international law's million-dollar question:  whether international law really matters in the way states conduct their relations with other states.

        My research paper forms the backbone of this website, and the paper is divided up thematically into different pages centered around the two major sections of the paper (The System of Alliances and The Obligations of Belgian Neutrality).  Within these sections, I have created hyperlinks to the World War I documents to which I refer (where available), so that you the reader may verify my sources and come to your own conclusions.  I have also placed links to many useful Internet resources relevant to my paper in a links page specific to each major topic, and you are invited to browse these other resources for more in-depth study.  If you get confused with the chronology of events on these topics, I invite you to take a look at my interactive timelines, which should clarify matters for you.  As I explain in the Introduction, though, there are a number of other international legal issues from the war that are not treated in detail in my paper.  For that reason, I have created a separate page for each issue describing in a paragraph or two its general subject matter, followed by a series of links to other Internet sources on the issue (as a starting point for further study).  There is also a page of general links to World War I sites of general interest, including maps, other timelines, and biographies of some of the major personalities.  In any event, the arrows and internal links should guide you quickly and easily through the site, but if you ever get lost or just want to see the general layout of my site, the sitemap is available from every page for your navigating convenience.

Introduction to my paper

Legal Notice and Disclaimer:  This site makes educational fair use of some copyrighted images for education and research purposes only.  However, all borrowed pictures are linked to their source page, which should give proper respect to the author and allow the reader to pursue certain topics in greater detail.  If I have offended anyone by borrowing his or her images, I promise to remove them if that person notifies me of the problem.  As for the style of my site, the backgrounds were taken from and, and other design features (including arrows, bullets and horizontal bars) can be found at  It is assumed that the link back to these graphics design sites is sufficient to give credit where credit is due. 


First of all, Professor Setear initially came to me with the proposal of doing this project, and without him, I would have never had the idea to undertake such a challenging yet rewarding exercise.  He has also been instrumental in constantly giving me direction on the content of this project, and in particular, his proficiencies in Internet design and layout have vastly improved its final appearance.  Courtney Boissonault, Professor Setear's research assistant, is the mastermind creator of the timeline pages on this site, and she gets all the credit for finding a way to implement their unique layout.  Also, Liz Young of the University of Virginia Information Technology and Communication Department helped me greatly in learning the basics of creating a website and in troubleshooting along the way.  Finally, my wife Laëtitia provided indispensable aid down the homestretch, and her understanding through the many hours spent on this project has been phenomenal. 

Website last updated:  May 15, 2000
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