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Godfather of Protestant Imperialism and Colonialism: Hugo Grotius Justification of the Dutch Assault on the Luso-Spanish Empire, 1604-1645

Tuesday, 20 April 2010 : 20.00 – 22.00 hours
Nieuw Waldeck Library, Rossinilaan 141, 2551 MR The Hague
Admission free; reservations necessary : nieuwwaldeck@dobdenhaag.nl

A joint activity with  the Nieuw Waldeck Library of The Hague.

Traditionally, legal historians have interpreted the writings of Hugo Grotius as the foundation of modern international law.   This reading of Mare Liberum (1609) and De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625) turns out to be incorrect, not to say misleading, if Grotius´ life and work is considered in its proper historical context. My research shows that Grotius remained an enthusiastic defender of the Dutch East and West India Companies until the end of his life.  His theorizing on natural righs and natural law did not involve any kind of  ´blue-sky´ thinking, but served to justify the Companies´ aggressive military and naval campaigns against the Portuguese empire.  It can be argued that notions like freedom of trade and navigation represent the victory in international law of the same Protestant powers of North-Western Europe (the Dutch Republic, the UK, and, later, the US) that had cut the Spanish and Portuguese empires down to size in the seventeenth through twentieth centuries.

Bio: Dr. Martine Julia van Ittersum is a Lecturer in European History at the University of Dundee in Scotland (UK). Her monograph Profit and Principle: Hugo Grotius, Natural Rights Theories and the Rise of Dutch Power in the East Indies, 1595-1615 appeared with Brill Publishers in Leiden in 2006. Her most recent research focuses on the materiality of texts and archeology of archives. She is a Visiting Fellow at the Huygens Institute in The Hague, where she works on a book-length project on the transmission and dispersal of Grotius´ papers (17th-20th centuries). A complete list of her publications is available at  www.dundee.ac.uk/history/staff/vanittersum.htm