Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Grotius' magnum opus of 1625, "De Jure Belli ac Pacis", represented the culmination and summary of Western international norms through the 17th century. But Grotius' explicit statement of international mores in legalized terms marked a departure from medieval thought. By secularizing natural law and, more importantly, by recognizing the new international system of the sovereign nation-states, Grotius made major alterations in transnational theory, thus earning the sobriquet, "father of international law."

As will be seen, however, a serious ambivalence marked Grotius' views. His modernity was demonstrated most notably in his recognition that international politics was the province of a number of sovereign nation-states, each of which defined its own values and purposes. Although this view diverged considerably from medieval conceptions, Grotius unfortunately retained many aspects of an earlier "just war" theory that vitiated much of his innovative genius. This article examines these conflicting approaches to international norms developed by the first modern theorist of interstate relations.