Natural Law 1625-1850. An International Research Project (Halle/Erfurt)

The publication in 1625 of Hugo Grotius’ major work, De iure belli ac pacis, marked the beginning of a new form of natural law and a new phase in its history. As a branch of moral and political theology, natural law had a long earlier history in Catholic thought and in ecclesiastical and civil polity. Grounded in civil law and politics, and taking shape as an independent academic subject, the new natural law emerged first in Protestant countries but soon found reception in Catholic contexts. The vocabulary of natural law quickly proved useful for formulating issues in a wide array of intellectual and practical cultures, ranging from jurisprudence, political and moral philosophy, and literature, to constitutional design, law reform, judicial practice, and diplomacy and international law.

The teaching of natural law thus often came to play the role of an intellectual clearing-house at the centre of the arts, law, and politics curriculum, organising the school-learning through which early-modern thinkers set out. Drawing its materials from the practices of European public law, politics, and diplomacy, the language of natural law made these available in the more abstract and teachable vocabulary of obligation and rights, sovereignty and freedom, without escaping the profound contentions in which they were rooted. In order to understand these historical processes and thus to deal with our own questions of continuity and discontinuity of thought, we have to study natural law in its full intellectual and practical complexity.


Upcoming Workshop/Conferences
Workshop: "Natural Law at the Universities of Halle, Greifswald, Rostock, Kiel and Copenhagen. Projects coordinated by the International Network on "Natural Law 1625-1850"" will be held at IZEA, Halle, January 17. Please see "Announcement" for more information.

Conference: "Enlightened Libraries: Natural Law Collections and their Role in the Intellectual Infrastructure between Lund, Copenhagen and Northern Germany 1650-1800" will be held in Copenhagen, February 9-10. Please see "Announcement" for more information.

New Projects
The German Research Council (DFG) has funded three new projects on natural law:
Mikkel Munthe Jensen (Gotha), "Institutionalising the Law of Nature and Nations: The Universities of Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock 1648–1806".
Martin Kühnel (Halle), "The teaching and formation of natural law at the University of Halle. The first period: 1694–1740".
Mads Langballe-Jensen (Halle), "Academic natural law in absolutist Denmark c. 1690-1773: Professionalisation and politics".

Book Series
Volume 4 in the book series has been published: Auf dem Weg zur kritischen Rechtslehre? Naturrecht, Moralphilosophie und Eigentumstheorie in Kants “Naturrecht Feyerabend”, ed. Dieter Hüning, Stefan Klingner, Gianluca Sadun Bordoni (Leiden, 2021).

The Natural Law 1625-1850: Database has been updated with new profiles on Emer Vattel, Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, Francis Hutcheson, Carl Christian Erhard Schmid, Johann Gottlieb Heineccius, Gottfried Achenwall, Jean Barbeyrac, and others.

An International Research Project Program
Book Series
Modern scholarship on natural law Book Series
A bio-bibliographical database of natural law scholars Database