orig. Huigh de Groot
Hugo Grotius, detail of a portrait by Michiel Janszoon van Mierevelt; in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
(born April 10, 1583, Delft, Neth.—died Aug. 28, 1645, Rostock, Mecklinburg-Schwerin) Dutch jurist, humanist, and poet. He enrolled at Leiden University at age 11 and as a teenager accompanied Johan van Oldenbarnevelt
on a mission to France, where he remained to study law and publish a book on politics (1598). Appointed the official historiographer of Holland, he wrote the history of the Dutch revolt against Spain. Increasingly involved in politics, he wrote a defense of Dutch trading rights for the Dutch East India Company
and called for free access to the ocean for all nations. He became attorney general of Holland in 1607. Imprisoned in 1618 when his patron Oldenbarnevelt was executed by Prince Maurice, he escaped to Paris in 1621 (by hiding in a trunk of books) and returned 10 years later, having achieved great international prestige. His legal works advance the idea that nations are bound by natural law
; his masterpiece, On the Law of War and Peace
(1625), one of the first great contributions to modern international law
, prescribes rules for the conduct of war. He also published many translations and works of classical scholarship.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.