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Part I Histories, Ch.4 Hugo Grotius: The Making of a Founding Father of International Law

Martine Julia van Ittersum

From: The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law

Edited By: Anne Orford, Florian Hoffmann

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 24 June 2024

Customary international law — General principles of international law — Sources of international law

This chapter explains how the myths surrounding Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) came into being and whose interests have been served by it. It was a combination of Dutch nationalism and the rise of modern international law that turned Grotius into a ‘founding father’, with a little help, it should be said, from the American delegates at the 1899 Hague Peace Conference. The myth is based on a highly selective reading of De Jure Belli ac Pacis and completely ignores the larger historical context of Grotius’ work, particularly his hands-on involvement in Western imperialism and colonialism. The chapter aims to contextualize properly his life and work, rather than to focus on just one aspect of it and use that to justify modern-day arrangements for the resolution of conflicts between states.

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