The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations: Alberico Gentili and the Justice of Empire

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The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations 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 how 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This volume is - like the edition and translation - beautifully produced. It is a model enterprise, and the results are startlingly relevant and interesting. Gentili's work has a lasting interest, in its own right, and as an entry point to a still highly significant body of work. Classicists will find much here to influence and challenge their own readings of Ciceronian arguments regarding natural and positive law, and historians of thought now have no reason to overlook Gentili in favour of more famous successors. All told, a great success and a really significant contribution to scholarship."
—Christopher Smith, British School at Rome and University of St Andrews
Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"[T]he contributions are of a uniformly high quality, and the entire project design is sound. Particularly praiseworthy is the integration of interdisciplinary voices into the discussion of early modern international affairs... The editors should be congratulated for bringing this effort to fruition, marking what may be anew turn in the scholarship of international legal history, one that properly emphasizes the intellectual, social, and cultural contexts of the subject."—American Journal of International Law

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199599875
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/4/2011
  • Pages: 406
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

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. Romisches Recht und romische Ethik im fruhneuzeitlichen Naturrecht (2007), and the editor, with Benedict Kingsbury, of Alberico Gentili, The Wars of the Romans. De armis Romanis, trans. David Lupher (2010).

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Table of Contents

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

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