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Grotius: The Law of War and Peace (1625)


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Hugo Grotius’ treatise on The Law of War and Peace (1625) was a pioneering work in framing a comprehensive system of international relations and the law of nations. Though he drew extensively from biblical texts for his analysis, he also quoted extensively from classical Roman and Greek philosophers, poets and jurists. In a break from the Calvinists of his day, he believed the laws of nature and of nations were able to be derived from mankind’s experience as well as from revelation. He wrote this treatise, in part, as a response to the common practice of waging war “without any reference of law, Divine or human.”  Click here to view this book in its entirety.

Translated into English by Francis W. Kelsey (1925) with the collaboration of Arthur E. R. Boak, Henry A. Sanders, Jesse S. Reeves and Herbert F. Wright. Books 1-3, 578 pages, 78 chapters, with chapter bookmarks. Available in .pdf and .prc file formats for reading on your PC, e-reader, tablet or smart phone. This is a fully digital edition of this work – it is not a hard copy publication or facsimile edition. Based on the edition printed by Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1925. This edition does not contain any footnotes. Spelling has been modernized. This electronic edition © Copyright 2003, 2005 Lonang Institute.

“In giving to our treatise the title ‘The Law of War,’ we mean . . . to inquire whether any war can be just, and then, what is just in war. For law in our use of the term here means nothing else than what is just . . .. [T]here is no controversy which may not give rise to war. In undertaking to treat the law of war, therefore, it will be in order to treat such controversies, of any and every kind, as are likely to arise. War itself will finally conduct us to peace as its ultimate goal.”    Hugo Grotius, from The Law of War and Peace (1625).

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