In published collections of international treaties, each treaty will be set out as in this example

  1. It starts with a title - e.g. Convention concerning the [description of subject matter] concluded between [country A] and [country B]

  2. It then gives the date and place of signature.

  3. It then gives the text, usually set out in the languages of both countries - e.g. The government of [A] and the government of [B] wishing to facilitate...

My question is about (1) above - the title - and its status, official or otherwise.

Does the title actually appear at the top of the document when it is signed?

If not, does it appear anywhere on the piece of paper? - for example traditionally legal documents of various kinds were often written on a single sheet of very large paper and the title would be put on the back in such a position that when the sheet was folded inwards several times the writing on the back of the sheet as folded would show its title (so that you could tell what it was without having to open it up).

Or is the title simply a descriptive title later used by government departments and publishers of treaties and so not official in a bilateral sense?

1 Answer 1


A title page is usually part of a treaty document, and the title page will have a title. The title of the document will have been agreed by the parties.

But the title has no normative value. It may indicate aspirations or intentions. It doesn't, by itself, require anything of either party.

Moreover, the name that the treaty becomes know by may not be the same as the name on the cover. For example the "Good Friday Agreement" is actually "The Belfast Agreement". And the Treaty of Versailles is actually "The Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany".

Most treaties are not single pieces of paper, they are bound into a book form, and the title goes on the the title page.

  • In this example foto.archivalware.co.uk/data/Library2/pdf/1896-TS0012.pdf there is a short title on the first page which ends *Presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of her Majesty. Then over the page is a long title and the the text of the treaty. Am I right in thinking that the long title is what was actually written on the treaty when it was signed, and the short title is what the British Government afterwards chose to call it as a short name?
    – Nemo
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 15:20
  • That is reasonable speculation. Bill in the house of commons normally have a short title, which is read at each "reading" of the bill.
    – James K
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 15:22
  • The short title uses Great Britain as the name of the contracting party whereas the long title uses United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland so seemingly the former is being used as an abbreviation of the latter.
    – Nemo
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 15:25
  • 1
    @Nemo: the document you link to appears to be how the treaty document was prepared for presentation to Parliament. It's not the original document, and so p1 provides information about the treaty, whose text begins on p3. In particular, it's common when treaties and other official documents are presented to Parliament for them to be done "by the Command of Her Majesty". They are called Command Papers. Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 9:33
  • 2
    That seems to be a reasonable assumption. But as I said, the title has no normative power. It isn't something that the parties would usually spend much time on. Why does it matter to you?
    – James K
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 10:00

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