The Rise of International Law: The Decisive Contribution of Hugo Grotius

  • Laurence Peters


The modern-day UN Charter relies on the rule of international law to bind states to accept the will of the Security Council. As a multilateral convention, the charter imposes a treaty obligation on its members but although sovereign governments still get to decide whether to execute UN resolutions or not, their basis in international law is not often challenged. The UN relies on two kinds of dispute resolution—the International Court of Justice, of which 65 states have accepted compulsory jurisdiction; and the arbitration powers given under the charter to the Security Council.1 The roots of this twofold division date back to antiquity and this chapter traces the emergence of the first forms of international law and the way that a key thinker in this field, Hugo Grotius, helped organize an inchoate mass of legal precedents that flowed from the courts of arbitration and shaped them into a body of international law capable of serving as the binding force behind the United Nations (UN).


United Nations Security Council Dispute Resolution Hague Convention East India Company 
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  1. 1.
    See S. K. Verma, An Introduction to Public International Law (New Delhi: Prentice Hall of India 1998), p. 341.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    F. Kellor, American Arbitration: Its History, Functions and Achievements (Washington, DC: Beard Books, 1999), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
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    P. Potter, An Introduction to the Study of International Organization (New York: Century Company, 1922), p. 224.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Miller, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , comments on Grotius in the following manner: “By doing all of this, the Grotian school is supposed to negotiate a middle way between bare-knuckled ‘Machiavellianism’ and excessively idealistic ‘Kantianism’ (for more, see Wight together with the criticisms in Bull [1976]). Depending on the fortunes of these schools at any particular moment in history, Grotius’ influence on international relations will be waxing or waning.” Jon Miller, “Hugo Grotius,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 ed.), ed. Edward N. Zalta, Scholar
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    R. Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace: Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 80–81.Google Scholar
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    See A. Adolf, Peace: A World History (Cambridge: Polity, 2009), pp. 129–130.Google Scholar

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© Laurence Peters 2015

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  • Laurence Peters

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