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Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680$
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Christopher N. Warren

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198719342

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198719342.001.0001

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From Imperial History to International Law

From Imperial History to International Law

Thucydides, Hobbes, and the Law of Nations

(p.127) 5 From Imperial History to International Law
Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680

Christopher N. Warren

Oxford University Press

This chapter augments existing scholarship that has focused on Hobbes’ royalism by emphasizing how Hobbes’ translation of classical history steered between the Scylla of antiquarianism and the Charybdis of baldly instrumental rhetoric. The chapter shows the formidable interventions a translator could make amidst the seventeenth-century poiesis of international law. The stakes of Thucydides included the accuracy of the Genesis story, the extent or existence of natural obligations, and the capacity of men, as one of Hobbes’ notes put it, to “gr[o]w … civil.” Reading Hobbes’ translation in the context of seventeenth-century debates over the law of nations offers a chance to see how history and humanism intersected in the making of international law.

Keywords:   Hobbes, translation, Virginia Company, colonialism, Grotius, Gentili, antiquarianism, epic, history

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