Elena Kempf

I am a historian of Late Modern Europe, with special interests in international law, human rights and humanitarianism, and modern Germany. During the 2023-24 academic year, I will offer seminars on the history of the laws of war (winter quarter) and the French Revolution (spring quarter).  

My current book project is a history of international weapons law from the 1860s to the 1920s. Why and how have some weapons been prohibited and to what effect? Using five case studies—exploding bullets, expanding “dum-dum” bullets, the First World War, submarines, and chemical weapons—I demonstrate how weapons prohibitions rose to prominence in the context of imperial and industrialized warfare. Once in place, these prohibitions became moral weapons themselves, both restricting and enabling wartime violence. 

My writing has appeared in or is forthcoming with the European Journal of International Law, Voelkerrechtsblog, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Critical Military Studies, and the Oxford Handbook on Comparative Human Rights Law. 

I currently serve as a Fellow with the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law at Berkeley Law School. I received my Ph.D., M.A., and B.A. in History from UC Berkeley.