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Grotius, the Social Contract and Political Resistance. A Study of the Unpublished Theses LVI

Peter Borschberg

Department of History, National University of Singapore


The Theses LVI belong to a series of hitherto unpublished early manuscripts of the Dutch humanist and jurisconsult Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) that were acquired by the University of Leiden in 1864. It is not certain when the Theses were written, but preliminary research on the physical manuscript and the sources cited indicate two possible windows. The first is around 1602-1605, that is roughly at a time when Grotius was also working on his Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty (De Iure Praedae Commentarius). The second dating places the genesis of the manuscrbipt around 1613-1615.

In the context of Grotius' writings, the Theses LVI assume an important position for several reasons: They raise questions about state formation, the duty of citizens to the state and the right of political resistance in far greater detail than in any other work of the celebrated Dutch humanist. The Theses LVI also feature important reading notes that yield priceless insights into the sources that Grotius directly consulted and their influence on his ideas. The manuscript grants modern scholars a unique glimpse into the working mind of its author. Evidence points not only to the ferocious haste with which Grotius wrote his works, but also the occasional sloppiness of his reading and research habits.

Contents: 1. Grotius and the social contract: the context of the Theses LVI - 2. The manuscript of the Theses LVI and other relevant writings of Grotius - 3. Thoughts on the sources adduced by Grotius - 4. Grotius' method and program in the Theses LVI - 5. God, creation and the nature of man - 6. The genesis of the commonwealth (state, respublica) via the social contract - 7. Sovereignty in the Theses LVI - 8. Resisting tyranny - 9. Afterthoughts - 10. Bibliography of cited manuscripts and printed sources.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 87

Keywords: Grotius, political theory, sovereignty, resistance

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Date posted: March 13, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Borschberg, Peter, Grotius, the Social Contract and Political Resistance. A Study of the Unpublished Theses LVI (2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=969250 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.969250

Contact Information

Peter Borschberg (Contact Author)
Department of History, National University of Singapore ( email )
Singapore, 117591
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