International law is a set of rules that govern international interactions. It sets up a common framework for states to interact across a wide range of domains. These include human rights, the environment, global communications, and economic issues.
A number of factors contributed to the development of international law. Among them were the increasing colonial expansion of European powers, a confluence of cultures, and the introduction of the printing press. The spread of science and technology spurred the development of concepts of individual rights.
During the 18th century, natural rights began to play an important role in international politics. They were also influential during the American and French revolutions. However, their significance declined in the twentieth century.
Until the mid-19th century, relations between states were governed by treaties. These were nonbinding, except for matters of honor. But even when they were binding, they could only be enforced by force.
As the modern world developed, the scope of international law expanded to include international non-state actors such as corporations. This led to the creation of numerous international organizations. Since then, globalization has increased the sphere of influence of these bodies.
International law has also been affected by the growing importance of cyberspace. It is based on the principle of equality of all states. In this context, some countries tend to favor territorial sovereignty. Others oppose it.
The traditional focus of international law was on norms that regulated the conduct of states during wartime. In the 1970s and 1960s, however, international law began to take on a more universal character. New international law was often created through processes of consensus.