The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations

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The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations

Alberico Gentili and the Justice of Empire

Edited by Benedict Kingsbury and Benjamin Straumann

406 pages | 234x156mm

978-0-19-959987-5 | Hardback | October 2010 (estimated)


About the book

  • Examines the influence of Roman law, and the model of the Roman Empire, on the development of the European understanding of international law by focussing on the work of Alberico Gentili
  • Contributors to the volume include legal scholars, classical scholars, and historians

This book makes the important but surprisingly under-explored argument that modern international law was built on the foundations of Roman law and Roman imperial practice. A pivotal figure in this enterprise was the Italian Protestant Alberico Gentili (1552-1608), the great Oxford Roman law scholar and advocate, whose books and legal opinions on law, war, empire, embassies and maritime issues framed the emerging structure of inter-state relations in terms of legal rights and remedies drawn from Roman law and built on Roman and scholastic theories of just war and imperial justice.
The distinguished group of contributors examine the theory and practice of justice and law in Roman imperial wars and administration; Gentili's use of Roman materials; the influence on Gentili of Vitoria and Bodin and his impact on Grotius and Hobbes; and the ideas and influence of Gentili and other major thinkers from the 16th to the 18th centuries on issues such as preventive self-defence, punishment, piracy, Europe's political and mercantile relations with the Ottoman Empire, commerce and trade, European and colonial wars and peace settlements, reason of state, justice, and the relations between natural law and observed practice in providing a normative and operational basis for international relations and what became international law.
This book explores ways in which both the theory and the practice of international politics was framed in ways that built on these Roman private law and public law foundations, including concepts of rights. This history of ideas has continuing importance as European ideas of international law and empire have become global, partly accepted and partly contested elsewhere in the world.

Readership: Scholars and students of legal history, historians of political thought, political theorists, classicists, and scholars of international law.


Author information

Edited by Benedict Kingsbury, Murry and Ida Becker Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for International Law and Justice at New York University School of Law, and Benjamin Straumann, Alberico Gentili Fellow at New York University

Benedict Kingsbury is Murry and Ida Becker Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for International Law and Justice at New York University School of Law. He also directs NYU Law School's Program in the History and Theory of International Law, with Martti Koskenniemi. He is the editor, with Benjamin Straumann, of Alberico Gentili, The Wars of the Romans. De armis Romanis, trans. David Lupher (OUP, 2010), and, with Hedley Bull, Adam Roberts et al, of Hugo Grotius and International Relations (OUP, 1990).

Benjamin Straumann is Alberico Gentili Fellow at New York University. He is the author of Hugo Grotius und die Antike. Römisches Recht und römische Ethik im frühneuzeitlichen Naturrecht (2007), and the editor, with Benedict Kingsbury, of Alberico Gentili, The Wars of the Romans. De armis Romanis, trans. David Lupher (2010).


Professor Clifford Ando, University of Chicago
Professor Lauren Benton, New York University
Ms Alexis Blane, J.D. , New York University School of Law
Professor Benedict Kingsbury, New York University School of Law
Professor Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsinki and New York University School of Law
Professor Randall Lesaffer, Tilburg Law School and the Catholic University of Leuven
Professor David Lupher, University of Puget Sound
Dr Noel Malcolm, All Souls College, University of Oxford
Professor Anthony Pagden, University of California, Los Angeles
Professor Diego Panizza, University of Padua (emeritus)
Professor Pärtel Piirimäe, University of Tartu
Professor John Richardson, University of Edinburgh (emeritus)
Dr Peter Schröder, University College London
Dr Benjamin Straumann, New York University
Professor Jeremy Waldron, New York University and All Souls College, University of Oxford
Professor Christopher Warren, Carnegie Mellon University


Table of contents

 1: Benedict Kingsbury and Benjamin Straumann: Introduction
Part I A Just Empire: The Roman Model
2: John Richardson: The Meaning of imperium in the Last Century BC and the First AD
3: Clifford Ando: Empire and the Laws of War: A Roman Archaeology
4: Diego Panizza: Alberico Gentili's De armis Romanis: The Roman Model of the Just Empire
5: David Lupher: The De armis Romanis and the exemplum of Roman Imperialism
6: Benjamin Straumann: The Corpus iuris as a Source of Law Between Sovereigns in Alberico Gentili's Thought
Part II Gentili and the Law of War
7: Noel Malcolm: Alberico Gentili and the Ottomans
8: Christopher Warren: Gentili, the Poets, and the Laws of War
9: Peter Schröder: Vitoria, Gentili, Bodin: Sovereignty and the Law of Nations
10: Pärtel Piirimäe: Alberico Gentili's Doctrine of Defensive War and Its Impact on Seventeenth-Century Normative Views
11: Randall Lesaffer: Alberico Gentili's ius post bellum and Early Modern Peace Treaties
12: Alexis Blane and Benedict Kingsbury: Punishment and the ius post bellum
Part III Law Between, Beyond and Within Sovereigns
13: Lauren Benton: Legalities of the Sea in Gentili's Hispanica Advocatio
14: Jeremy Waldron: Ius gentium: A Defense of Gentili's Equation of the Law of Nations and the Law of Nature
15: Martti Koskenniemi: International Law and raison d'état: Rethinking the Prehistory of International Law
16: Anthony Pagden: Gentili, Vitoria, and the Fabrication of a 'Natural Law of Nations'

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