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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jewels in the Crown: Early Modern International Law

Mare Liberum, Leiden, 1633.
The Pulling Collection offers a great showcase for key works of important contributors to early modern international law. Emerging in part from jurists like Hugo Grotius, and debates like that on the freedom of the seas, early modern international law drew from Roman and canon law, and both supported and sought to regulate an age of European conquest and globalization. Included in the exhibit is a small but famous part of the debate on the freedom of the seas. Grotius, a Dutchman, supported Dutch mercantile interests, arguing in Mare Liberum (1609) for free commercial rights to the seas. The English antiquarian Selden, and others, countered that seas could fall under national jurisdiction and ownership; this was the case with the herring-rich fishing waters off England’s coast.  

John Selden (1584-1654), Mare Clausum. In Opera Omnia, vol. 2, pt. 2.  London, 1726.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

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