Lessons from the past for public international law in the future – Remembering Bertha von Suttner and her quest for peace

It has often been argued that one cannot understand the present without the past. The same holds true for the future. I suggest that the debate on the future of public law could benefit from drawing on past experiences and struggles for change. To illustrate this historical approach, I use the example of Bertha von Suttner. In her lifetime, Suttner (1843–1914) was considered the most famous woman in the world. For many public lawyers a laughing stock, for very few others a ‘pillar of fire’ (Walther Schücking) in the night, she never tired of proclaiming her vision of a more peaceful world. In light of the ever-increasing potential of conflicts over vital resources and other interests, Suttners ideas of disarmament, international cooperation and dispute adjudication are still highly relevant today. Focusing on some significant developments in Suttners life, I will propose some conclusions on how her life and work could serve as guidance for public international law scholars today.