Filip Batselé

Filip Batselé is a legal historian and international lawyer with a PhD in Laws from Ghent University and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Double degree). He defended his PhD in October 2023, which focused on the law and politics of early (1959-1989) bilateral investment treaty (BITs) negotiations of (West-)Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands. Since then, he held postdoctoral positions at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and subsequently at the LMU Munich, where he was a Junior Postdoctoral Fellow of the KFG Universalism and Particularism in Contemporary European History. Filip’s research focuses on the history of international law in general and the history of international investment protection during the 20th century in particular, using archival research as his primary research method. Filip has previously published in leading journals such as the European Journal of International Law and has written a monograph on the law of slavery (published by Springer).


Research Project

‘Big Oil’ and the Creation of International Investment Law (1956-1989).

My research project assesses international investment law from the perspective of foreign investors rather than using a state-centric lens. The project centers on the multinational oil and gas company Shell Plc, formerly Royal Dutch Shell, and several of its company lawyers. Unknown to contemporary practitioners and academics, company lawyers specialized in international law at this company played a crucial role in the creation of the field, being involved in negotiations on bilateral and multilateral investment protection treaties, an investor-state dispute settlement convention (the ICSID Convention) and systems for the insurance of political risks when investing abroad. The research project uncovers Shell's role by tracing its interests through various public and private archives in Western Europe and the United States, where the company engaged in extensive legal advocacy. The project does so by, on the one hand, zooming in on crucial moments for the regime’s creation during the critical juncture of the 1950s and the 1960s and, on the other hand, by writing a legal biography of the leading company lawyer involved, the UK-based John R. Blair (1912-1989). The project provides a unique empirical case study of an oil company's role in the history of international investment law, improving our understanding of global corporations' role in international law.