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Hugo Grotius' Many Sides


Deze informatie is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Admission requirements

This course is an Honours Class and therefore in principle only available to students of the Honours College. There are a few places available for regular students.


This course provides an interdisciplinary overview of the main aspects of Hugo Grotius's (1583-1645) thought. It combines intellectual and political history, history of political thought, philosophy of law, and literature.

Grotius's thought is at once multi-disciplinary in itself, chronologically variable, but also strongly coherent in several of its main aspects. His epoch-making ideas on natural rights, for example, are closely connected with his interest in reason of state and other aspect of his historical thought, while at the same time, they embody an attempt to turn contemporary political realism into a more recognizably moral branch of thought. Similarly, much of his literary historiographical and theological pursuits are geared towards closely connected political purposes, which are in turn embedded in the contemporary historical context.

In this course students will read some key texts by Grotius in the fields of philosophy of law, literature, history, and politics and discuss their content, historical contexts, and purposes (political or other). Three guest speakers from the various disciplines involved will guide us towards readings of the texts in their relevant disciplinary contexts.

Course objectives

By following this course, students acquire the following knowledge and skills:

  • Students will have knowledge of the most important aspects of Hugo Grotius’ life and thought;

  • Students will have first-hand knowledge of some important texts by Grotius, to be read in English translation;

  • Students will be able to comment on the origins of the texts and ideas and have a basic knowledge of their original context in practical politics and intellectual debates;

  • Students will be able to formulate research questions regarding these texts and engage in informed debate about them;

  • Students will be able to write a research plan, perform the research, and present their results in a written paper;

  • Each student will present constructive criticism of another student’s research plan for the paper.


Monday 6 November 2017: 14-17hrs
Monday 13 November 2017: 14-17hrs
Monday 20 November 2017: 14-17hrs
Monday 27 December 2017: 14-17hrs
Monday 4 December 2017: 14-17hrs
Monday 11 December 2017: 14-17hrs
Monday 18 December 2017: 14-17hrs


Old observatory room c002.


1) Biographical overview Hugo Grotius 1583-1645
2) Guest lecture by Dr H.J. van Dam; Grotius as humanist and literator 13 November 2017
3) Grotius and the Dutch East India Company: De Iure Praedae and his thought on just war and international relations
4) Guest lecture by Prof. Dr. R. Lesaffer, Grotius and Natural Law: the search for a new basis for international relations; De Iure Belli ac Pacis 27 November 2017
5) Guest Lecture by Prof. Dr. Edwin Rabbie, Grotius' Ordinum Pietas and the religious and political struggles of the Truce period (1609-1619) 4 December 2017
6) Grotius as Historian: reason of state, secularisation and constitutionalism
7) Excursion to Loevestein Castle; (or: Special session in Leiden University Library or Peace Palace Library The Hague)
8) Discussion of the paper summaries. Each student is referee of another student’s summary (see above).

  • As an extra, a walking tour in Leiden highlighting the locations of Grotius's study years in Leiden can be organised

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

  • Lectures/seminars: 7 lectures/seminars of 3 hours

  • Excursion: 1 excursions of 5-8 hours

  • Literature reading & practical work: 7-10 hours p/week x 7 sessions

  • Assignments & final essay: ca. 40-50 hours

Seminars and interactive work form:
In preparation of the sessions, the students read a selection of texts that will be made available via Blackboard. The sessions consist of a lecture or guest lecture, followed by questions and discussion of the reading material for that week. Two or three students prepare specific questions on the basis of the reading material that will serve as a starting point for the discussion.

Towards the end of the course, students will write a paper on an aspect of the course material, to be handed in after the course. Summaries of these papers will be discussed in the final session: each student will review another student’s research plan and present fair and constructive praise and criticism that will help the other student to improve their plan.

Assessment method

Exam: written paper

Marking criteria
a) quality of one's contribution to the discussion in the sessions (25%)
b) quality of the paper (75%)

Students must pass both assessments to complete the course.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

Dutch students: please obtain a copy of: Hugo de Groot, Kroniek van de Nederlandse Oorlog. De Opstand 1559-1588, vertaling en nawoord door Jan Waszink (Nijmegen: Vantilt 2014)

(English version in preparation: English students, for the time being, use the article 'Tacitism in Holland')


Enrolling in this course is possible from August 21st until September 6th 23:59 through the Honours Academy, via this link


Dr. J.H. Waszink