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Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)


The place that Grotius holds in the history of international law and the laws which regulate war and peace is one that has been recognized at least since the 18th century, but more especially in the treaties and international agreements which emerged out of the major conflicts of the 20th century. In this discussion we want to explore what Grotius thought about the proper relationship between the laws of nature and the laws of nations, what limits (if any) can be legitimately and rightly placed on the conduct of states engaged in war, and to ask ourselves whether his insights have any relevance today. Another issue which will be debated is where does Grotius sit in the history of the classical liberal tradition? Do his ideas reinforce the power of the monarch (or modern state) to do practically anything they wish, or do they place real and binding restraints on what is permissible when one enters a state of war? Is he merely a transitional figure, or does his theory of the Rights of Peace have a more radical libertarian interpretation? The text under discussion is Liberty Fund's 3 volume edition of Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace (2005).

Lead Essay: Fernando R. Tesón, “Hugo Grotius on War and the State”

Responses and Critiques:

  1. Hans W. Blom
  2. Paul Carrese
  3. Eric Mack