Conference: Military Justice in the Modern Era, c1850-1945 (updated)

Kelly Maddox's picture

Military Justice in the Modern Era, c1850 – 1945

Hybrid Conference

(28 – 30 July 2022)


In conflicts throughout the world, military justice fulfils two vital functions. First and foremost, it acts as one of the principal mechanisms to maintain discipline within the armed forces by harshly punishing soldierly misconduct. Secondly, it serves as an instrument of military power in occupied territories by adjudicating the crimes of enemy belligerents and local inhabitants. In the former role, agents of the courts martial system can significantly impact the incidence, routinisation and escalation of violence by soldiers in wartime situations. In the latter, the imposition of martial law and the punishment of occupied peoples and enemy nationals by military courts can constitute a form of violence in itself. Accordingly, an historical examination of the principles, structure and application of military justice can offer important insights into war crimes and atrocities that are still valid in the conflict zones of our world today.

This conference brings together scholars specialising in military justice from a wide range of historical and geographical contexts to discuss conceptual, legal, institutional and practical aspects of the exercise of legal and judicial authority by armed forces. While the primary aim is to deepen our knowledge of the agents, institutions and practices involved in dispensing military justice in the modern era (i.e. mid-nineteenth century through 1945), a secondary objective will be to consider the role of military justice as a driver of violence.


This is a hybrid event.

To attend in person (spaces limited), please register via the following link:

To attend via Cisco Webex, please register via the following link:

Access details will be provided upon registration.

Registration for this event will close on 21 July 2022.

This conference is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 819892). It is hosted by the Institute for Japanese Studies, Freie Universität Berlin as part of the ERC project 'Law without Mercy: Japanese Courts-Martial and Military Courts during the Asia-Pacific War, 1937-1945'.


Conference Schedule

Day 1 – 28 July 2022

09:00 - 09:15 Welcome

09:15 - 10:45 Panel 1 – Agents of the Judiciary

Fascist Justice: Italian Military Magistrates in the Colonies and Occupied Territories (1922-1945)

Giovanni Focardi, University of Padua

A Judge Advocate’s Progress: Ogawa Sekijirō’s Diary and the Standardisation of Permissible Violence on the Way to Nanjing, 1937

Urs Matthias Zachmann, Freie Universität Berlin

10:45 - 11:15 Break

11:15 - 12:45 Panel 2 - Disciplinary Justice

Crime and Punishment? The Functioning of the Imperial Japanese Army's Justice System, 1931-1945

Tino Schölz, Freie Universität Berlin

Arbitrary Justice: Military Tribunals in Bolivia, 1905-1945

Liz Shesko, Oakland University

12:45 - 13:45 Lunch

13:45 - 15:15 Panel 3 - Developments in International and Military Justice Systems

“How to…!”: Legal Debates on the Punishment of Violations of the Laws of War, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the period between the Franco-Prussian War and the beginning of the Cold War (1869–1949) [ONLINE]

Daniel Marc Segesser, University of Bern

Captivity and Military Law in Eurasia: The Ottoman and Russian Wars of the 17th and 19th Centuries [ONLINE]

Will Smiley, University of New Hampshire

15:15 - 15:45 Break

15:45 - 17:15 Panel 4 - The Politics of Military Justice

"Reports without Basis in Facts:" The Politics of Justice in the Argentine Navy during the 1920s and 1930s [ONLINE]

Jonathan Ablard, Ithaca College

Pain, Pride and Professionalization - The Transformation of Military Justice in Early Twentieth Century China

Nicolas Schillinger, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Day 2– 29 July 2022

09:00 – 10:30  Panel 5 - Military Justice in Practice

Soviet Military Law in Practice: The Prosecution and Punishment of Red Army Soldiers and Soviet Civilians During and in the Immediate Aftermath of the Second World War

Franziska Exeler, Freie Universität Berlin / University of Cambridge

The Long Arm of Military Justice in the Wehrmacht – The Arrest and Resettlement of Families of Deserters Sentenced by a Wehrmacht Military Court

Nina Janz / Sarah Maya Vercruysse, University of Luxembourg

10:30 – 11:00 Break

11:00 – 12:30  Panel 6 - Justice and the Enemy

Justice behind the Lines: Prisoners of War, Military Justice, and Reprisals in the First World War

Brian Feltman, Georgia Southern University

Tried by the Enemy: The Court-Martial of Lieutenant James Bottomley Bradley by the Japanese Military in 1944

Nicolas Stassar, Freie Universität Berlin

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:00  Panel 7 - An Instrument of Military Power in Occupied Territories

Military Courts as an Instrument of Occupation: Wehrmacht Justice in Occupied Norway

Maria Fritsche, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Military Justice in the Belgian Occupied Zone of the Rhineland

Anne Godfroid, WHI-MRA, Brussels

15:00 - 15:30 Break

15:30 - 17:00 Panel 8 - Challenges to Military Law

Military, Law, or Military Law? The Dilemma of Militarized Justice in Modern China [ONLINE]

Weiting Guo, Aix-Marseille Université

Enforcing Military Law: British Courts Martial during the Period of World War One

Gerard Oram, Swansea University [ONLINE]

17:00 - 17:30 Break

17:30 - 19:00  Panel 9 - Victims of Military Justice?

Death or Deliverance: Canadian Courts Martial and Executions in the Great War [ONLINE]

Teresa Iacobelli, Canadian War Museum

Worthy of Freedom: Black Jurisprudence and Resisting Disciplinary Violence in the Courts-Martial during the US Civil War [ONLINE]

Jonathan Lande, Purdue University

Day 3 – 30 July 2022

09:00 – 10:30  Panel 10 - Law, War and Violence

"The Final Arbiter of the Question": General Orders 100, Filipino Guides, and Military Justice in the Philippine-American War

Justin Jackson, Bard College at Simon's Rock

Law, Justice and Violence towards Civilians in Territories Occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army, 1894-1941

Kelly Maddox, Freie Universität Berlin

10:30 – 11:00 Break

11:00 – 12:30  Panel 11 - Approaches to Military Justice Archives

"Brutal by Temperament and Taste": Using Military Justice to explore Violence between Soldiers in France's "African Army", 1914-1918 [ONLINE]

Claire Eldridge, University of Leeds

Colonial Violence, Subaltern Agency and Shared Archival Heritage: Towards a History of Military Courts and their Archives in the Belgian Congo

Amandine Lauro, FNRS/Université libre de Bruxelles

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:00 Closing Discussion