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Series II: Columbia University, 1958-2007
Series VI: United Nations, 1981-2005
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in seven series.
The papers of Louis Henkin consist of 22 linear feet, documenting his professional and academic career as a Columbia Law School professor and father of human rights law. The bulk of the collection dates from his later years, and includes substantial teaching materials and records of his participation in professional organizations. There is also documentation of his time as Chief Reporter for the American Law Institute's Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law and his tenure as an appointed expert on the United Nations' Human Rights Committee. The collection also includes Henkin's subject files, three boxes of correspondence, and drafts and offprints of many of his articles and speeches. There is a small selection of personal papers, including day planners and two interviews of Henkin which provide insight into his philosophical outlook and his perspective on his career.
Collection materials include administrative files, agendas, articles, awards, bound volumes and journals, case reports, clippings, conference materials, correspondence, course materials, day planners, drafts, interviews, photographs, speeches, student records, and syllabi.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has restrictions. Subseries II.1 and Subseries II.2 include folders containing student grades and transcripts which are restricted for 80 years from date of record. Restricted folders are noted in the series note and container list.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Louis Henkin Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Selected Related Material at Columbia
Center for the Study of Human Rights Records, 1981-2004 [Bulk dates: 1987-2001].
Human Rights First (acquisitioned in 2008, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information)
Reminiscences of Learned Hand: Oral History, 1957. Interviewed by Louis Henkin.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed by Caitlin Goodman, 2013.
Finding aid written by Caitlin Goodman in March 2013.
2013-03-05 xml document instance created by Caitlin Goodman
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Louis Henkin was born Eliezer Henkin on November 11, 1917. Born in what is today Belarus, Henkin emigrated with his family to New York City's Lower East Side in 1923. He graduated from Yeshiva College in 1937 with a degree in mathematics and, on a whim, applied to Harvard Law School. He served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, graduated in 1940, and then clerked for Judge Learned Hand, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Although interrupted by his four years in the U.S. Army, his clerkship with Judge Hand led to a clerkship on the Supreme Court, for Justice Felix Frankfurter. While in the Army with the First Field Artillery Observation Battalion, Henkin was deployed to Europe, serving in France, Germany, Italy, and northern Africa. In 1944, Henkin used his native Yiddish to convince a German colonel to surrender his company, earning a Silver Star for gallantry in action. Henkin's wartime service inspired his interests in international affairs and foreign relations, and after his clerkship for Justice Frankfurter ended in 1947, Henkin spent eight years at the Department of State. There he worked for the United Nations Bureau and NATO, focusing on constitutional law and foreign affairs, and helping to draft the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Henkin began his long career at Columbia University in 1956 as the Associate Director of the Legislative Drafting Research Fund, leading to his first book, Arms Control and Inspection in American Law. In 1958, he began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, his first faculty position. He married Alice Hartman Henkin, another major figure in international human rights law, in 1960. In 1962 Henkin joined the faculty of Columbia Law School, where he remained until his death in 2010. Henkin's teaching interests were diverse and interdisciplinary, focusing on constitutional law, foreign relations, human rights, international law, and the law of the sea. He developed and fostered significant human rights curricula and scholarship at Columbia University, founding the University's Center for the Study of Human Rights in 1978 and Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute in 1998. In 1999, the law school established the Louis Henkin Professorship in Constitutional and Human Rights.
Outside of Columbia, Henkin was active on a number of advisory committees, particularly in the field of human rights law. He served on the Permanent Court of Arbitration from 1963-1969, as an adviser on the Law of the Sea (1973-1980), and spent three terms on the Advisory Committee on International Law. Henkin founded the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First) in 1978 and served on its Board. He was also Chief Reporter for the American Law Institute's influential Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States, published in 1987. He was appointed to the United Nation's Human Rights Committee in 1999 and served through 2002. Henkin was also a prolific scholar. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Institut de Droit International, and served as president and editor-in-chief of the American Society of International Law. He wrote over a dozen books, including How Nations Behave and Foreign Affairs and the Constitution, and edited another ten, including Human Rights, a central academic textbook. Henkin was active into his nineties, writing an amicus brief in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) that was quoted in the Supreme Court's decision, and continuing to lecture. He died at his home in New York City on October 14, 2010, at the age of 92.
Grimes, William. "Louis Henkin, Leader in Field of Human Rights Law, Dies at 92."New York Times, 16 October 2010.
Interview of Louis Henkin by Don Anton, 1996.
Von Gutfeld, Sonia. "A Tribute: Columbia Celebrates the Human Rights Legacy of Louis Henkin." 2006.