John West Memorial Lecture 2020

The 32nd John West Memorial Lecture

Professor Tim McCormack

The Notion of Humanity as a Constraint on the Conduct of War

Friday 13 March 2020 – 8pm

Sir Raymond Ferrall Centre, University of Tasmania, Newnham


International Humanitarian Law (also known as the Law of War or the Law of Armed Conflict) imposes legal constraints on the way war can be conducted in an attempt to alleviate human suffering. Professor McCormack will discuss the mid-19th Century emergence of the notion of humanitarian constraint and demonstrate that although motivations may have been genuine, they were also exclusionary. The intended beneficiaries of humanity in war were “civilised peoples” and there was never any intention to apply the same legal protections to “savages”. This exclusion manifest in harsh reality as much in Van Diemen’s Land as it did in many other conflicts around the world.


Professor Tim McCormack is the Dean of the University of Tasmania Law School and the Special Adviser on War Crimes to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He was the founding Australian Red Cross Professor of International Humanitarian Law at the Melbourne Law School (1996-2010) and is an internationally recognised expert on International Humanitarian Law and on International Criminal Law. He was recently Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School in the US (January 2020) and has held a number of other significant international appointments.  Tim was born in Launceston and grew up in Burnie.

Everyone is welcome to attend this free event organised by the Launceston Historical Society in partnership with the University of Tasmania.

February 2020 Newsletter

Read the first Newsletter for 2020 to find out what is happening at the Launceston Historical Society. The AGM with guest speaker Mike McCausland is on Sunday 16 February at the QV Museum at 2pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

We are looking forward to hearing Professor Tim McCormack speak at the John West Memorial Lecture on Friday 13 March at UTAS, Newnham.

The rest of the year’s activities are already planned too.