Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Unpartitionable: C.H. Alexandrowicz, Sovereign Divisibility, and the Longue Durée of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Loefflad, Eric (2023) Unpartitionable: C.H. Alexandrowicz, Sovereign Divisibility, and the Longue Durée of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. German Law Journal, 24 (5). pp. 912-938. E-ISSN 2071-8322. (doi:10.1017/glj.2023.51) (KAR id:101973)


In recent years, scholars of international legal history have demonstrated much newfound interest in C.H. Alexandrowicz, a Polish jurist renowned for his anti-Eurocentric revisionist account of Asian and African agency within the meta-narrative of international law. Building on efforts to link his Polish origins with his studies of the Afro-Asian world, especially on matters of imperialism and state personality, my purpose in this Article is to explore these connections through a materially grounded historical sociology of international legal thought. Centering the issue of whether sovereignty is divisible, I situate the historic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—extinguished by a series of Partitions in 1772, 1793, and 1795—as a unique divided sovereignty-based polity that provided a basis for Alexandrowicz’s study of the juridical status of non-European sovereigns. This analogy united his overarching critique of nineteenth-century international legal positivism as an unjustifiable denial of both Polish and Afro-Asian sovereignty. In deciphering the materiality of Alexandrowicz’s imagination against this presumption, I build a narrative of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the evolution of its distinct approach to sovereign divisibility. Through analysis of the interplay between internal and external factors, I account for the Commonwealth’s medieval origins, its development in opposition to the consolidating indivisible sovereignty of its absolutist neighbors, its attempts to maintain independence in the face of Partition, and the continued assertions of its variegated legacies following its destruction. This, I argue, provides a novel means of assessing Alexandrowicz’s theory, and the materiality of international law more generally

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/glj.2023.51
Uncontrolled keywords: C.H. Alexandrowicz; International Legal History; Historical Sociology; East-Central Europe; Legal Personality
Subjects: D History General and Old World
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JX International law
J Political Science > JZ International relations
K Law
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Eric Loefflad
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2023 15:03 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2024 23:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.