About the Lieber Institute

Research. Collaborate. Educate.

The Lieber Institute for Law & Land Warfare at West Point seeks to foster a deeper understanding of the complex and evolving relationship between law and warfare. The Institute leverages academic and military expertise to examine the role of the law of armed conflict in emerging conflicts around the world and ensure the law’s relevance in contemporary warfare.

In today’s complicated battlespaces, the continued effectiveness and enforceability of the law is highly dependent on whether the expressed rules remain definitive, understood, and accepted. Yet contentious topics highlight a troubling lack of unanimity in the international community concerning the law. The Lieber Institute aims to address this challenge by creating a diverse community of thought through its events, publications, speaking engagements, research, and education initiatives. Only by proactively keeping the law of armed conflict relevant may the primacy of international law remain unquestioned in contemporary warfare.

The United States Military Academy’s Lieber Institute for Law & Land Warfare—at the crossroads of academia and military legal study—is the ideal location for serious discussions on how the law of armed conflict will remain an effective regulatory body in modern day. Additionally, its enrichment programming educates, provides an intellectual resource for, and empowers current and future combat leaders in matters involving the laws of armed conflict.

 

History

The Institute is named after Francis Lieber—a German-born lawyer who had been seriously injured as a soldier in the Napoleonic wars and later held as a political prisoner by the Prussian government. After emigrating to the United States, Lieber taught at Columbia University, specializing in the U.S. Constitution and laws applicable in warfare. In the early days of the Civil War, President Lincoln requested that Lieber create a list of applicable rules of warfare for military officers on the battlefield, including instruction regarding the treatment of Confederate prisoners, protection of civilians, military necessity, and allowable means and methods of warfare. Consisting of over 150 rules, the ensuing volume became known as the “Lieber Code.” It was originally distributed to all Union Officers, but its influence soon extended worldwide following the war. Numerous countries endorsed the Code outright or used it as a foundation for their own national code of conduct for soldiers. It later formed the basis for international codifications on the law of war, to include the Hague Relations and Geneva Conventions.

In 1878 Francis Lieber’s son, Guido Norman Lieber, became the second Professor of Law at West Point.