Chapter in The Law of the Sea (Scheiber, ed.) (2000)

Gentili, Grotius, and the Extra-European World

Benedict Kingsbury

Read PDFRead PDF
The modem textbook organization of the law of the sea, with its cascading zones of jurisdiction and its preoccupation with things that happen in the sea such as fishing, navigation, war, pollution, or scientific research, to some extent masks the connections of the subject with reasons for travelling across the sea, including commerce, evangelism, slavery, migration, and empire. Grotius’ Mare Liberum, which was published in 1609 to contest the claims of Portugal and Spain arising in part from the sea-borne expeditions to the extra-European world commemorated by this conference, is a reminder of the close links between the developing law of the sea and the expansion of Europe into the extra-European world. The point is manifest even in the title of Mare Liberum: “The freedom of the seas or the right which belongs to the Dutch to take part in the East Indian trade.” This conference falls also on the 400th anniversary of Alberico Gentili’s De Jure Belli (1598), a work which had considerable influence on Grotius but which in its own right merits study. I propose in this paper to consider the views of the extra-European world held by these two foundational writers on the law of the sea and on what became international law. I will focus more attention on Gentili, who is less well known in part because of having been succeeded so quickly by Grotius.