In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Hugo Grotius

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Collected Works
  • Representative Primary Texts
  • Biographies
  • Warfare and Sociability

International Law Hugo Grotius
John Haskell
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0139


Hugo de Groot (b. 1583–d. 1645), more commonly known today as Hugo Grotius, was a prominent intellectual figure in the 17th century and wrote prolifically on topics related to history, law, philology, politics, and theology and within fictional genres (e.g., poetry). In international legal and international-relations literature, scholars commonly invoke Grotius as a symbolic marker of changing historical paradigms or styles of governance. His fictional work was largely confined to the 17th century, his theological texts were prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries, and his legal-political texts have been confronted widely since the 17th century until the early 21st century in various mediums. In particular, detailed biographical work on Grotius emerged most prominently in the early 20th century (with some precursors) and underwent a revival in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with scholars providing increasingly detailed archival analysis of his life and writings in relation to surrounding dynamics. Politico-legal themes in Grotius’s work are perhaps the most regularly addressed and in the 20th century (among post–World War I international-law scholars and post-1970s English school of international-relations scholars) have largely revolved around the topic of warfare, especially regarding the role of law and the emancipatory potential of the legal-political policymaker balancing competing diverse interests. Since the 1980s, Grotius has increasingly factored into interdisciplinary debates concerning the historical dynamics that marked the transition into the early modern European world order, usually indebted to the Cambridge school of intellectual history. This last stream of scholarship tends to focus on identifying and calibrating the predominant normative traditions that influenced his work (e.g., varieties of Scholastic and humanist thought), and weighing the extent that his work broke new ground in what commonly is referenced as the modern natural-law tradition. The literature on Grotius is located primarily in academic edited volumes, journals, and monographs and is increasingly attuned to the rich archival materials, complicated intellectual lineages, and dense economic, political, and social dynamics that shaped his lifetime.


Though significant portions of Grotius’s correspondence and writing are lost (or discovered only hundreds of years after his death), more than 120 publications in more than 1300 editions and 7800 letters produced by Grotius during his lifetime are still preserved, primarily in libraries located around The Hague (Peace Palace, Royal Library), Leiden (the University Library), and Amsterdam (the Library of the University of Amsterdam). The journal Grotiana is a particularly valuable repository of literature concerning Grotius and maintains an ongoing bibliography. Nellen 2015 offers perhaps the most comprehensive list of available archives, printed and reference works, and secondary works related to Grotius. Ter Meulen and Diermanse 1950 classifies a broad selection of bibliographic material according to nine themes within Grotius’s publications. Eyffinger 1983 provides a comprehensive guide to the works by Grotius held at the Peace Palace. Haggenmacher 1983 is widely felt to be one of the most useful bibliographies that extends beyond Grotius to texts that influenced his work from a variety of intellectual traditions (e.g., Spanish Scholastics). Bull, et al. 1990 includes a useful list of periodicals that contain germane articles concerning Grotius, as well as a selective bibliography. Other useful if partial bibliographies are available in van Holk 1983 and Jeffery 2006. The most extensive bibliography focused particularly on Grotius from a theological perspective may be found in Nellen and Rabbie 1994.

  • Bull, Hedley, Benedict Kingsbury, and Adam Roberts, eds. Hugo Grotius and International Relations. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.

    An introductory guide of works covering a variety of historical and politico-legal themes in relation to Grotius, organized around periodicals, main editions of work by Grotius, bibliographical lists, and secondary literature divided between books and articles. Reprinted as recently as 2002.

  • Eyffinger, Arthur C., ed. The Grotius Collection at the Peace Palace: A Concise Catalogue. The Hague: Peace Palace Library, 1983.

    A useful guide into the Grotius collection at the Peace Palace Library, focusing on Grotius’s manuscripts organized in relation to the bibliography assembled in ter Meulen and Diermanse 1950.

  • Grotiana.

    Issues dedicated to providing a relatively comprehensive ongoing bibliography of interdisciplinary scholarship engaging Grotius’s life and writings.

  • Haggenmacher, Peter. Grotius et la doctrine de la guerre juste. Publications de l’Institut Universitaire de Hautes Études Internationales, Genève. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1983.

    Provides an extensive bibliography of texts that immediately predated and followed Grotius’s writing, with particular emphasis on Scholastic writings engaging the theme of just war.

  • Jeffery, Renée. Hugo Grotius in International Thought. Palgrave Macmillan Series on the History of International Thought. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781403983510

    Offering a selective but useful bibliography of mostly secondary works, especially related to publications within Grotiana, concerning a variety of interdisciplinary inquiries into the context of Grotius’s texts.

  • Nellen, Henk J. M. Hugo Grotius: A Lifelong Struggle for Peace in Church and State, 1583–1645. Translated by J. C. Grayson. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.

    An explanation of the libraries that house Grotius’s archival materials and literature; provides a broad compilation of his correspondence and literature, as well as some secondary materials.

  • Nellen, Henk J. M., and Edwin Rabbie, eds. Hugo Grotius, Theologian: Essays in Honour of G. H. M. Posthumus Meyjes. Studies in the History of Christian Thought 55. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994.

    Includes a concise overview of primary and secondary literature in a variety of mediums that engage Grotius’s theological writing.

  • ter Meulen, Jacob, and P. J. J. Diermanse. Bibliographie des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950.

    A dated but still-useful list of primary texts by Grotius, which number approximately 120 publications in more than 1300 editions.

  • van Holk, L. E. “Selective Bibliography of Books on the Life and Legal Writings of Grotius.” In Grotius Reader: A Reader for Students of International Law and Legal History. Edited by L. E. van Holk and C. G. Roelofsen, 45–54. The Hague: T. M. C. Asser Instituut, 1983.

    A relatively conventional and concise list of secondary articles and books on the life and writings of Grotius, primarily useful for introductory readings into scholarly treatment of Grotius and largely missing the historical debates that emerged in the mid- to late 1980s.

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