Authors: Hugo Grotius

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Dutch politician, jurist, and dramatist

Author Works


De jure praede commentarius, wr. c. 1604-1606, pb. 1868 (Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty, 1950)

Mare liberum, 1609 (a chapter from De jure praedae commentarious; jurisprudence; The Freedom of the Seas, 1916)

Inleidinge tot de Hollandsche Rechtsgeleerdheud, 1631 (Introduction to Dutch Jurisprudence, 1845)

De iure belli ac pacis libri res, 1625 (jurisprudence; On the Law of War and Peace, 1654)

De veritate religionis Christianae, 1627 (theology; The Truth of the Christian Religion, 1680)

Historia Gotthorum, Vandalorum, and Langobardorum, 1655


Adamus exul, wr. 1601 (The Adamus Exul, 1839)


The Dutch jurist, statesman, philologist, Latin poet and dramatist, and historian Hugo Grotius (GROH-shee-uhs), or Huig de Groot, was born in Delft in 1583. His father was an important citizen of the town, a former mayor, an official of the University of Leiden, and a friend of many scholars and humanists. Grotius was an exceptionally bright child, and at the age of eleven he entered the University of Leiden, where he was imbued with a strongly religious conscience and where he studied under such famous teachers as Joseph Scaliger.{$I[AN]9810000609}{$I[A]Grotius, Hugo}{$S[A]Groot, Huig de;Grotius, Hugo}{$I[geo]NETHERLANDS, THE;Grotius, Hugo}{$I[tim]1583;Grotius, Hugo}

At the age of fifteen, Grotius accompanied a diplomatic mission to France. There, his intelligence and tact impressed the king himself. On his way back to Holland, he took a doctor of laws degree at Orleans. Before he was twenty, he was an important attorney in The Hague, was intimate with the great, and was appointed official historiographer to the States of Holland. In 1601, he wrote his Latin tragedy The Adamus Exul, which many consider to be the best dramatic treatment of the biblical story of Adam’s banishment from Eden.

In about 1604-1606, Grotius wrote Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty (which was not published until 1868) for the Dutch East India Company to help them justify the seizure of several Portuguese ships in the Far East. In this document, he maintained that the seas were open and free to all nations–a theme he developed at greater length in his monograph The Freedom of the Seas. These writings were much admired, and in 1607 Grotius became attorney general of the province of Holland. A year later, he married the daughter of the mayor of Veere.

In 1612, Grotius became involved in an international attempt to reunite Christianity. One of his colleagues in this endeavor was Causaubon, the theological adviser to the king of England. Soon afterward, he began his political career as a representative of Rotterdam in the States-General of the Republic of the United Provinces. In 1618, however, after a bitter church-state controversy in which, while advocating a compromise, he supported the state, Grotius was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. With the help of his wife, he escaped prison and fled to France, where he was received as a distinguished statesman in exile. Both in prison and in exile, he remained loyal to Holland. He also continued to produce an amazing amount of writing, including a translation from Euripides, a commentary on the Bible, the treatise The Truth of the Christian Religion, and his great masterpiece, On the Law of War and Peace.

In 1631, Grotius attempted to return to Holland, but despite much powerful intercession for him, the States-General refused to allow his reinstatement. This time, Grotius fled to Hamburg. Certain forces in the Dutch government arranged to offer Grotius a governor-generalship in the East Indies. He refused, but in 1634, during the Thirty Years’ War, when Sweden asked him to serve as ambassador to France, he accepted. His term as ambassador was a disappointment to him, for he had hoped to negotiate peace. At the end of his tenure, in 1645, he was greatly honored in Sweden and Queen Christiana asked him to remain. He declined, however, and set out to return to Holland. He died during the journey, in Rostock, Mecklenburg.

BibliographyBull, Hedley, Benedict Kingsbury, and Adam Roberts, eds. Hugo Grotius and International Relations. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Includes bibliographical references and an index.Dumbauld, Edward. The Life and Legal Writings of Hugo Grotius. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. Includes a bibliography.Dunn, John, and Ian Harris, eds. Grotius. 2 vols. Cheltenham, England: E. Elgar, 1997. From the series Great Political Thinkers. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.Dust, Philip. “Milton’s Paradise Lost and Grotius’ De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (The Law of War and Peace).” Cithera: Essays in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition 33 (November, 1993). Examines the influence of Grotius on John Milton.Edwards, Charles S. Hugo Grotius, the Miracle of Holland: A Study in Political and Legal Thought. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981. Includes an introduction by Richard A. Falk, an index, and a bibliography.Gellinek, Christian. Hugo Grotius. Boston: Twayne, 1983. The standard biography from Twayne’s World Authors series.Haakonssen, Knud, ed. Grotius, Pufendorf, and Modern Natural Law. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 1999. From the International Library of Critical Essays in the History of Philosophy.Knight, W. S. M. The Life and Works of Hugo Grotius. 1925. Reprint. New York: Oceana, 1962. A selection of biographical and critical works on Grotius.Nelson, Ralph. “Erasmus and Grotius on Just War Theory.” Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies 6, no. 1 (Spring, 1985). Analyzes the views of these Dutch scholars.Vreeland, Hamilton, Jr. Hugo Grotius: The Father of the Modern Science of International Law. 1917. Reprint. Little, Colo.: F. B. Rothman, 1986. A classic work.
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