chapter  7
18 Pages

Is the Sea Open or Closed? e Grotius-Selden Debate Renewed

ByJames Muldoon

The conventional histories of international law still point to Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) as the founder of international law, and his vast De Iure Belli ac Pacis (1625) remains the cornerstone of all subsequent writing on the subject.1 Like important works in other fields, however, the De Iure Belli ac Pacis so dominates the history of international law that it has caused lawyers and scholars to neglect both the extensive tradition of legal thinking upon which Grotius built and the writings of those whose views differed from his. At one time, it was possible to reject the intellectual opponents of Grotius as narrow-minded, medieval reactionaries or thinkers whose conception of international law lacked the scope of Grotius’s work. Grotius himself contributed to these negative views of other thinkers in the international law tradition in the introduction to his major work when he denigrated the work of his predecessors, declaring that most of his predecessors “have done their work without system, and in such a way as to intermingle and utterly confuse what belongs to the law of nature, to divine law, to the law of nations, to civil law, and to the body of law which is found in the canons.” Furthermore, he argued, “What all these writers especially lacked” was “the illumination of history” to provide illustrative examples that would demonstrate the experience of other societies.2