ON THE LAW OF WAR AND PEACE (DE JURE BELLI AC PACIS), the first systematic treatise on international law, remains a great landmark in the history of modern civilization and one of the foundations of modern international law. Grotius had a three-fold reason for writing his great book. First, he was morally and philosophically concerned with the problem of war. He was not a utopian who hoped to outlaw war, which he thought a regrettable but natural thing, but a practical attorney and an erstwhile public official who hoped to regulate and mitigate the horrors of conflict. As he says in his “Prolegomena” to ON THE LAW OF WAR AND PEACE, “Throughout the Christian world I observed a lack of restraint in relation to war, such as even barbarous races should be ashamed of; I observed that men rush to arms for slight causes, or no cause at all, and that when arms have once been taken up there is no longer any respect for law, divine or human; it is as if, in accordance with a general decree, frenzy had openly been let loose for the committing of all crimes.” Grotius says that he is fully convinced “that there is a common law among nations, which is valid alike for war and in war.” He hoped that by codifying and commenting on this “common law among nations” he would be able to create a base on which war could be understood and regulated.
His second reason for writing the book was his academic pride and self-interest. Grotius was as...
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