Mercenaries: The History of a Norm in International Relations

Hardcover (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 28%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $22.79
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 66%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (10) from $22.79   
  • New (5) from $53.04   
  • Used (5) from $22.79   


The main aim of this book is to argue that the use of private force by states has been restricted by a norm against mercenary use. The book traces the evolution of this norm, from mercenaries in medieval Europe through to private security companies in modern day Iraq, telling a story about how the mercenaries of yesterday have evolved into those of today in the process.

The norm against mercenaries has two components. First, mercenaries are considered to be immoral because they use force outside legitimate, authoritative control. Second, mercenaries are considered to be morally problematic because they fight wars for selfish, financial reasons as opposed to fighting for some kind of larger conception of the common good.

The book examines four puzzles about mercenary use, and argues that they can only be explained by understanding the norm against mercenaries. First, the book argues that moral disapproval of mercenaries led to the disappearance of independent mercenaries from medieval Europe. Second, the transition from armies composed of mercenaries to citizen armies in the nineteenth century can only be understood with attention to the norm against mercenaries. Third, it is impossible to understand why international law regarding mercenaries, created in the 1970s and 1980s, is so ineffective without understanding the norm. Finally, the disappearance of companies like Executive Outcomes and Sandline and the development of today's private security industry cannot be understood without the norm.

This book is a project of the Oxford Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199214334
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/16/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Percy is a Research Associate in the Oxford Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War and a Non-Stipendiary Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. She is the author of several articles about mercenaries and the privatization of force. Before coming to Oxford she taught senior military officers at the Joint Services Staff and Command College as part of King's College London's Defence Studies Department, where she still lectures about private force.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction     1
Existing Literature on Mercenaries     2
Outline of the Argument     11
Norms, Their Influence, and How They Can be Studied     14
What Is a Norm?     14
The Relationship between Norms and the Related Concepts of Law, Morality, and Interests     18
The Influence of Norms oil Politics     23
Narrative Methodology     32
The Challenges of Dealing with Norms     42
Conclusion     48
The Definition of a Mercenary and the Definition of the Proscriptive Norm     49
Definitions and Revelations: What Makes Mercenaries Different?     50
A Different Definition     54
The Spectrum of Private Violence     58
How the Definition Indicates the Proscriptive Norm     64
The Origins of the Norm against Mercenary Use, 1100-1600     68
Attachment to a Cause     69
The Need to Control Mercenary Forces     78
Conclusion: Revelations     90
Competing Explanations for the Nineteenth-Century Shift Away from Mercenary Use     94
Materialist or Realist Explanations of the Shift Away from Mercenary Use     96
Avant: Domestic Politics, Path Dependency, and the Transition From a Mercenary to a Civilian Army     105
Thomson: Ideas Can Explain the Shift Away from Mercenary Use     111
A Common Problem: Why Did States Prefer Citizen Armies, and Why Were They Willing to Take a Leap of Faith to Adopt Them?     119
How Citizens Became the Standard: A Normative Explanation of the Shift Away from Mercenary Use     121
America     123
France     128
Prussia     136
Britain     148
Conclusion     165
The Norm against Mercenary Use and International Law     167
Strong Norms Do Not Lead to the Creation of Strong Law: How the Law's Weaknesses Are Explained by the Anti-Mercenary Norm     169
The Heightened African Interest in Law Demonstrates that the Norm Was Not Universal     179
The Proscriptive Norm against Mercenary Use Is Most Challenged by Other Norms     192
Conclusion: The Significance of the Norm against Mercenary Use in International Law     203
New Model Mercenaries: PMCs, PSCs, and the Anti-Mercenary Norm     206
The Anti-Mercenary Norm in the 1990s: PMCs     207
Private Force and the Shift Away from Combat Operations     225
The Anti-Mercenary Norm and its Influence on the Provision of Private Force Today     232
The Future of the Anti-Mercenary Norm     238
Conclusion      243
Conclusion     244
Definition of a Mercenary from the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries     248
References     249
Index     265
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)