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Hugo Grotius
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Hugo Grotius

Hugo Grotius (Huig de Groot, or Hugo de Groot; 10th April 1583 - 28th August 1645) worked as a jurist in the Dutch Republic. He was also a philosopher, playwright, and poet.

In his book Mare Liberum (Free Seas) he formulated a new principle, claiming that the sea was international territory and all nations were free to use it for seafaring trade. England, competing fiercely with the Dutch for domination of world trade, opposed this idea and claimed sovereignty over the waters around the British Isles.

The dispute had important economic implications. The Dutch Republic supported the idea of free trade (even though it imposed a trade monopoly on nutmeg and cloves in the Moluccas). England adopted the Act of Navigation (1651), forbidding any goods from entering England except on English ships. The Act subsequently led to the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652 - 1654).

Grotius also laid the foundations for international law regarding matters of conflicts between nations in his book De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (Of laws of war and peace).

Grotius supported the States General of Holland in its conflict with the stadtholder, Prince Maurice of Nassau, son of William of Orange. He was arrested by Maurice in 1618, together with Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, and brought to Loevestein castle. However, in 1621, he escaped the castle in a book chest, and fled to Paris.

Grotius ranks as one of the founding figures of international law, but in the Netherlands, he is mainly famous for his daring escape. Both the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the museum Het Prinsenhof in Delft claim to have the original book chest in their collection.

The Peace Palace Library in The Hague holds the Grotius Collection, which has a large number of books by and about Hugo Grotius. The collection was based on a donation from Martinus Nijhoff of 55 editions of De jure belli ac pacis libri tres.

Grotius wrote a book defending Christianity, called "De veritate religionis Christianae (1660)", which was translated into Arabic, Persian and Chinese by Edward Pococke for use in missionary work in the East religion. Both Edward Gibbon and Thomas Carlyle have exposed some pious lies in this book, which were omitted from the Arabic text by Pococke, although kept in the Latin one.

The American Society of International Law has been holding an annual series of Grotius Lectures since 1999.

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