Levée en masse – the spontaneous uprising of the civilian population against an invading force – has long been a part of the modern law of armed conflict with regards to determining who may legitimately participate in armed conflict. The concept originated during the French Revolution, and was internationalized with its inclusion in the rules of armed conflict adopted by the Union Army during the American Civil War. Levée en masse continued to be included in the major international law of armed conflict documents from that time on, including The Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949. However, since that time, there have been few, if any, instances of levée en masse. This article examines the historical and legal development of the concept of levée en masse, charting its evolution from a general and sustained call to arms to the civilian population to the more strict 19th and 20th century legal categorization of civilians attempting to fend off an invading force. This article also examines the few instances of levee en masse in State practice, and, in doing so, assesses whether the concept retains any utility in 21st century armed conflict.
By entering this website, you consent to the use of technologies, such as cookies and analytics, to customise content, advertising and provide social media features. This will be used to analyse traffic to the website, allowing us to understand visitor preferences and improving our services. Learn more