Here you will find information about projects concerning natural law which are carried out by the members.
Natural Law in Hungary and in Transylvania
Transylvania constitutes a case of special interest in this project because of its particular political traditions, its multiconfessionalism and the close links of its Protestant elite to Western academic circles. However, strong linguistic and cultural reasons – such as the common language and religion, as well as the permanent scholarly communication between them – argue for joining research into the development of the natural law tradition in Transylvania with that in the Kingdom of Hungary. A study of the curricula will show when, by whom and under what circumstances natural law was introduced. Institutions with jusnaturalist curricula were, on the Catholic side, the colleges and the University of Nagyszombat (founded in 1635, run by the Jesuits), on the Protestant side the colleges of Pápa, Debrecen, Sárospatak, and Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca, Romania) as well as the so-called particular schools, controlled partly by the mother colleges, partly by the local Reformed or Lutheran community . The ideas may have been formulated in the universalist terms of neo-scholasticism (often repetitions from mainstream natural law), but this was the common outward form characteristic of west- and central-European institutions and not particular to Hungary. The library catalogues of most of the aforementioned institutions have been published (so far rarely in a digitalized form), often with ownership recorded. These registers provide a useful point of departure for research on natural law, indicating possible notes in books, evidence of works in the curriculum, evidence of keywords from natural law in official documents or in inaugural speeches (this latter is very promising). The research project will lend particular attention to academic peregrination, since Hungarian political and philosophical culture to a large extent was dependent upon scholars visiting Western universities. The only university in the country, Nagyszombat, was Catholic (with only two faculties of local significance), so that protestant students of all confessions wanting a university degree or aspiring to a post in their church had to go to England, Germany or the Low Countries (or to Padua, where no confession of faith was required for enrollment). These study tours are a well studied segment of Hungarian cultural history. The books and notes these students brought home are not the only sources of the planned research. University studies had to be completed by academic theses and by participation in a scholarly disputation. In Volume III of the so-called Régi Magyar Könyvtár ('Old Hungarian Library'), the texts of several disputations are accessible, and the National Library is permanently striving to purchase all the foreign editions that are still missing from its collection. This voluminous corpus also promises considerable results, especially if we compare it with the very useful bibliographical study prepared by legal historian Béla Szabó, who reviews only the publications of Hungarian law students.
Die Genese des christlichen Naturrechts. Die Grotius-Rezeption bei Johann Christian von Boineburg und seinem Kreis
Ziel des Projektes ist es, den Beitrag von Johann Christian von Boineburg (1622–1672) zu den Naturrechtsdebatten zwischen Grotius und Pufendorf in Deutschland und in der internationalen Gelehrtenrepublik zu rekonstruieren.
Der zumeist nur noch als Förderer von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz bekannte Mainzer Oberhofmarschall Johann Christian von Boineburg hat als Anreger und Auftraggeber von zahlreichen sehr namhaften Gelehrten des 17. Jahrhunderts die intellektuelle Orientierung und Leistung einer ganzen Generation in Deutschland nach dem Westfälischen Frieden sowohl direkt als auch indirekt maßgeblich beeinflusst.
Boineburg verfolgte im Ausgang einer bereits früh erworbenen Bewunderung für den niederländischen Juristen, Historiker und Theologen Hugo Grotius ein groß angelegtes enzyklopädisches Projekt, das, aus religiösen Motiven gespeist, auf die Bewahrung und Vermehrung von politisch wie theologisch relevantem wahren Wissen zielte. Ein sich erst entwickelndes integrales Moment dieses an Grotius anknüpfenden und dessen Leistung fortsetzenden Projekts war die theoretische Formierung eines dezidiert christlichen Naturrechts, das Boineburg in der kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit Pufendorfs Elementa jurisprudentiae universalis (1660) voranzutreiben versuchte, allerdings nicht bzw. nicht nur mit eigenen intellektuellen Mitteln. Als einflussreicher Politiker, der zeitweilig als Oberhofmarschall in den Diensten des Kurmainzer Erzbischofs stand, machte er sich – wie sein Nachlass zeigt – zum Zentrum eines Gelehrtenkreises, der von ihm zur Ausarbeitung eines christlichen Naturrechts nicht nur angeregt, sondern geradezu beauftragt wurde. Im engen Kontakt mit Hermann Conring, Johann Heinrich Boecler und Samuel Rachel partizipierte Boineburg als auch inhaltlich involvierter Organisator an der Formierung eines für notwendig erachteten dezidiert christlichen Naturrechts.
Unter der Verwendung eines sehr breiten Corpus von unterschiedlichem Quellenmaterial – insbesondere handschriftlichen Zeugnissen – soll die Genese des christlichen Naturrechts als ein Kommunikationsprozess innerhalb eines Netzwerkes rekonstruiert und beschrieben werden, dessen Zentrum ein bisher nicht hinreichend sichtbar gewordener Akteur ist. Indem das christliche Naturrecht nicht bzw. nicht in erster Linie von seinen im Druck erschienenen Resultaten, sondern von dem Wechselspiel kommunikativer Interventionen aus rekonstruiert werden soll, können die bisher unbekannten theoretischen Hintergründe der Genese des christlichen Naturrechts und seiner Inhalte sowie die damit verbundenen weitreichenden politischen Ambitionen zum ersten Mal sichtbar gemacht werden. Damit wird nicht nur ein Beitrag zu Geschichte des christlichen Naturrechts geliefert, sondern zur Geschichte des Naturrechts insgesamt, denn die etwa von Boecler und Rachel in den Diskurs eingebrachten Positionen bleiben trotz der tatsächlichen oder auch nur vermeintlichen Dominanz des säkularisierten (bzw. sich säkularisierenden) Naturrechts als theologisch inspirierter Kontrapunkt für eine lange und noch immer nicht hinreichend abgeschätzte Zeit einflussreich.
Influence in politics, influence in the republic of letters: Johann Christian von Boineburg’s relations with Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff, 1661–63
The subject matter of the present project is a complex reconstruction of the intellectual and political contacts between Johann Christian von Boineburg (1622–72), Chief Minister of the Elector of Mainz, and Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff (1626–92), Chancellor in the Gotha court of Ernest “the Pious,” Duke of Saxe-Gotha.
Their communication extended to a three-year period between 1661 and 1663 that coincided with the intensification of the pressure of Electoral Mainz on Erfurt to regain its territorial sovereignty over the city. In the sphere of the republic of letters, it covered the years of the development of Boineburg’s (over)ambitious project concerning the (re-)appropriation of Hugo Grotius’s heritage in the form of a “Christian” natural law. While the political contacts between Boineburg and Seckendorff during the Erfurt crisis are thematised in the secondary literature (although the account needs revision and a better documentation), the present proposal opens a further research perspective of their relations by focussing also on their scholarly communication. Therefore, the project understands itself as a case study of particular importance concerning the intervowenness of influence in politics and in the republic of letters during the early Modernity. As a result, one will be in a better position to understand the causes of subsequent, career-changing events in the life of both protagonists in 1664: the political fall of Boineburg in Mainz and the end of Seckendorff’s office in Gotha. As the Erfurt issue exemplifies, the principal aim of both parties consisted in influencing their rulers – the power-holding decision makers – respectively, rather than making decisions themselves. As Boineburg’s fall and incarceration demonstrated clearly, even enormous influence could evaporate within a minute.
The present project portrays Boineburg at the peak of his influence. The reconstruction of his personal relations and co-operation with Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff in the sphere of Imperial politics as well as of the republic of letters invites for a further, comparative investigation of the affinities of their “Christian” natural law. Boineburg’s ideas were scattered in his correspondence and implemented as an unfinished project in Johann Heinrich Boecler’s In Hugonis Grotii Jus belli et pacis ad illustrissimum baronem Boineburgium commentatio (1663–4), while Seckendorff’s scheme materialized in his Christen-Staat (1685). Their communication provides a further proof that Boineburg inspired, to lesser or greater extent, a number of individual efforts to create a “Christian” opponent of Samuel Pufendorf’s “secular” natural law in late seventeenth-century Germany: Johann Heinrich Boecler, Samuel Rachel, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff.
The project is implemented on a Hiob-Ludolf-Fellowship at the Gotha Research Centre of Erfurt University in 2022.
From Venice and Rome to Mainz: Italian Books from Humanism to Counter-Reformation in the Library of Baron Johann Christian von Boineburg
The “Maecenas Germaniae,” the Baron Johann Christian von Boineburg (1622-1672) was a book collector, patron of the arts, Lord Marshal at the court of the Mainz Elector Johann Philipp von Schönborn, and not least friend and supporter of the young Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Boineburg’s private library as an encyclopaedic, with an abundant number of hand-written cross-references interconnected “database” and his extended scholarly correspondence provides the source basis for the mapping of the international network of politically, denominationally, and scholarly engaged intellectuals after the Peace of Westphalia.
My project aims at the reconstruction of Boineburg’s role in the knowledge transfer between Germany and Italy. This research would encompass details of the acquisition, circulation, and reviewing of Italian books within his network as well as the determination of the place which science and theology that were produced in Italy occupied in Boineburg’s ever-broadening system of knowledge.
Besides, the project will focus on the issue of confessionality in Boineburg, which crystallised in a special way in his conversion. Boineburg, who received a Lutheran education in Jena and Helmstedt, was converted at the Imperial Diet of Regensburg in 1653. In the literature, his better career prospects at the court of the Mainz Elector are given as possible reasons. Here I want to overcome the previous state of research and also reveal the intellectual motives for the conversion. To this end, he will also examine the collective thought processes in Boineburg’s correspondence with other scholars. This collective communication and thought process has a lot to do with Italy and cannot be understood without the Italian context. As it will be shown on the collected source materials, impulses of the Counter-Reformation in the 17th century in general and also particularly in Boineburg’s case came from Rome.
As a result, one would be in a better position to understand, through the case study of an important German Catholic convert, the mid-17th-century reconciliation attempts between the authority of the Catholic Church and the aspirations of modern science and philosophy for the possession of true knowledge.
The project also includes the development of the database of Johann Christian Boineburg’s correspondence at the platform Early Modern Letters Online (University of Oxford).
The project is implemented on a Research Grant within the collaborative research scheme “Books in Motion. Circulation and Construction of Knowledge between Italy and Europe in the Early Modern Period” (director: Prof. Dr. Paola Molino) at the University of Padua in 2021-2022.
Editionsprojekt Christian Thomasius
Herausgegeben von Frank Grunert und Werner Schneiders
Die Edition der Ausgewählten Werke von Christian Thomasius wird von dem bisherigen Hauptherausgeber Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Werner Schneiders (Münster) und Dr. Frank Grunert erweitert. Zu den ursprünglich projektierten 24 Bänden, die im Kern die philosophischen Hauptwerke umfassen, kommen 8 weitere Bände hinzu. Sie sind den eher wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen und wissenschaftsreformerischen Arbeiten von Thomasius gewidmet und werden daher eine genauere - nicht zuletzt rezeptionsgeschichtliche - Positionierung von Thomasius' Œuvre in den Auseinandersetzungen um die zeitgenössische Gelehrtenkultur erlauben. Die Erweiterung der Ausgabe soll damit sowohl den veränderten wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Fragestellungen als auch der neuen Wahrnehmung von Thomasius' Werk im Kontext seiner Zeit Rechnung tragen.
Im Augenblick wird der Neudruck der Institutiones iurisprudentiae divinae von Christian Thomasius (Band 3 der Ausgewählten Werke) vorbereitet. Nach der inzwischen erfolgten Fertigstellung der von René Lehniger besorgten Register und des Vorwortes (Frank Grunert) wird der Band in Kürze erscheinen. Die Arbeiten an diesem Band wurden dankenswerterweise durch die Fritz Thyssen Stiftung gefördert.
Briefe von und an Christian Thomasius
Zur Vorbereitung der Edition der Briefe von und an Christian Thomasius haben Dr. Martin Kühnel und Dr. Frank Grunert die an den bekannten bzw. inzwischen ermittelten Orten lagernden Schriftstücke erfasst und gesichert. Durch umfangreiche – national wie international unternommene – Recherchen und durch gezielte Nachfragen bei den entsprechenden Einrichtungen wurde eine unerwartet große Anzahl von Briefen ausfindig gemacht, so dass der gesamte Bestand auf derzeit insgesamt 615 Schreiben angewachsen ist. Es handelt sich um 138 Briefe aus der Feder von Christian Thomasius und um die Schreiben von nicht weniger als 171 Korrespondenten. Alle relevanten Daten des bisher ermittelten Bestandes sind in eine Datenbank überführt worden, die eine Abfrage etwa nach Absender, Empfänger, Ort oder Datum erlaubt. Außerdem wurden alle aufgefundenen Schreiben vollständig digitalisiert, so dass die Transkription und die sachliche Auswertung der Briefe ohne Verzögerung aufgenommen werden kann.
Die bisherigen Vorbereitungsarbeiten ergeben folgendes Bild: Abgesehen von nur vereinzelten Schreiben aus den Jahren vor 1682 liegen bis zum Todesjahr 1728 durchgängig Briefe vor. Freilich ist die Überlieferungsdichte nicht immer gleich. Relativ hoch Ende der 1680er Jahre und während der 1690er Jahre, nimmt die Frequenz danach zunächst ab; gut dokumentiert erscheint dann wieder die Zeit zwischen 1706 und 1710 und die letzte Lebensphase in den 1720er Jahren. Geografisch findet der Briefwechsel in Mittel- und Norddeutschland und im Wesentlichen unter Protestanten statt. Mit Ausländern hat Thomasius – abgesehen von wenigen Ausnahmen, z. B. Pierre Poiret – nur vereinzelt Kontakt gehabt. Sofern er mit Partnern in den Niederlanden korrespondierte, handelte es sich durchweg um Deutsche (z. B. Friedrich Breckling), die entweder in den Niederlanden auf Reisen waren oder sich dort niedergelassen hatten. Die bevorzugte Sprache ist in der Regel Deutsch, Latein wurde – vermutlich je nach Gegenstand des Briefes – erst in zweiter Linie verwendet. Der französischen Sprache hat sich Thomasius – nach dem gegenwärtigen Stand der Erhebungen – nicht bedient, umgekehrt existiert durchaus eine nicht unbeträchtliche Anzahl von an ihn adressierten französischsprachigen Schreiben; englischsprachige Briefe liegen nicht vor. Angesichts des unbestrittenen Rangs, der Christian Thomasius auf den unterschiedlichen Feldern seines Wirkens zukommt, darf man von der Briefausgabe – abgesehen von wichtigen Einsichten in die Genese des Werkes – aufschlussreiche Erkenntnisse über die Formierungsphase der Aufklärung in Deutschland und die Gelehrtenkultur an der Universität Halle in den ersten zwei Jahrzehnten ihres Bestehens erwarten.
Gefördert durch die DFG ab 01.04.2010 für zunächst drei Jahre (2½ wiss. Mitarbeiter).
A re-edition of Samuel Pufendorf’s The Law of Nature and Nations
Editionsprojekt: Christian Wolffs Deutsche Ethik
Christian Wolff gehört zu den einflussreichsten Philosophen der deutschen Aufklärung, sein umfassender systematischer Begründungsanspruch, der sich in zahl- und umfangreichen Schriften niederschlägt, war auch für die Entwicklung der deutschen Aufklärungsphilosophie prägend. Noch die Metaphysikkritik, die Kant in seiner Kritik der reinen Vernunft formuliert, dokumentiert die Rolle, die der Wolffianismus im 18. Jahrhundert gespielt hat.
Der eigentliche Schwerpunkt von Wolffs philosophischer Arbeit lag auf dem Gebiet der praktischen Philosophie. Ein achtbändiges Werk zum Naturrecht, ein umfangreicher Band zum Völkerrecht, eine zweibändige Philosophia practica universalis, eine fünfbändige Moralphilosophie und weitere Abhandlungen geben davon Zeugnis. Den Ausgangspunkt von Wolffs praktischer Philosophie bildete die erstmals 1720 erschienen Vernünfftigen Gedancken von der Menschen Thun und Lassen, zu Beförderung ihrer Glückseeligkeit, den Liebhabern der Wahrheit mitgetheilet von Christian Wolff. Diese Schrift, besser bekannt unter ihrem geläufigen Titel als Deutsche Ethik, enthielt den umfassenden Entwurf einer eudämonistischen Vervollkommnungsethik, die für die weiteren Debatten der deutschen Aufklärung richtungsweisend war: Bis zum Kants revolutionärer Neubegründung der Ethik und durch deren radikale Absage an den Eudämonismus blieben Glückseligkeit und Vollkommenheit die beiden Konzepte, welche die Rahmenbedingungen für die ethischen Debatten absteckten.
Wegen der Bedeutung der Deutschen Ethik planen wir – Andree Hahmann (Peking), Gideon Stiening (Münster) und Dieter Hüning (Kant-Forschungsstelle der Universität Trier) – eine Neuedition der Schrift, die in der Philosophischen Bibliothek des Felix Meiner Verlags erscheinen wird. Damit soll allen Interessierten eine Studienausgabe zur Verfügung gestellt werden, die das Hauptwerk von Wolffs praktischer Philosophie durch Einbettung in den historischen Kontext und Aufarbeitung der impliziten Bezüge der Ethik Wolffs aufarbeitet.
Andree Hahmann (Peking), Dieter Hüning (Trier) und Gideon Stiening (Münster)
Jensen, Mads Langballe
Natural law in Denmark 1690-1750: The History of an Enlightenment
The project is a study of the reception and influence of German natural law in Denmark 1690-1750. It is a central aim of the project to describe how the reception of German natural law in these years was central to a Pufendorfian-Thomasian enlightenment largely overlooked in its Danish form.
The central focus of the project is the teaching of post-grotian natural law in Copenhagen from the 1690s onwards. To write this history, the project addresses a range of hitherto unused sources, including printed treatises, translations, manuscripts, textbooks, university disputations and student notes, placing these sources in their intellectual and political contexts. As the teachers of natural law, the most important of which were Henrik Weghorst, Christian Reitzer, Andreas Hojer and Christian Ludwig Scheidt, either came from Germany or had studied there, the project is simultaneously a study of the connections of scholars, students and publishers in Denmark to universities such as Kiel, Göttingen and in particular Halle.
Many of the teachers and writers of natural law in early eighteenth-century Denmark were followers of Samuel Pufendorf and Christian Thomasius and had studied in Halle. The early enlightenment in Denmark is arguable a particularly interesting case for studying the historical significance of modern, particularly Pufendorfian-Thomasian, natural law. Teaching of natural law was first introduced in the Danish capital in the years immediately following Christian Thomasius's polemics with the court preacher in Denmark, Hector Gottfried Masius. Pufendorfian-Thomasian natural law theory was not the only kind propounded, however, and the project describes how followers of Pufendorf and Thomasius vied for control over universities, politics and public debates with proponents of other forms of natural law, of orthodox Lutheranism and Pietism, and ultimately how in doing so they determined the character of the early Danish enlightenment.
Natural Law and the ideological legitimation of Danish colonialism
The project is the first history of the significance of natural law for the legitimation and development of Danish colonialism c. 1650-1850. It investigates the several uses made of natural law as a university discipline, as a legal source, and as a discourse in two regard.
One is the use made of natural law in defending Danish overseas colonial possessions. Grotius’ natural law arguments in defence of the Dutch VOC found early reception in Denmark, used indeed against the Dutch themselves, and continued to be drawn on in legitimating Danish colonialism. The project charts the continuing and diverse uses made of natural law to defend Danish colonial possessions and dominion, particularly in the West Indies and West Africa. Both where natural law was explicitly invoked and where its role as a general legal doctrine can be detected in polemics and the use made of treaties.
A second area is how natural law furnished the intellectual means for the transformation of Denmark-Norway from a confessional state to a modern commercial state engaged in trade (including in slaves) and colonialism. This not only extended the domain of the Danish monarchy over subject populations of unprecedented religious, cultural and ethnic differences overseas. It also introduced these, as visitors and students, manufacturers and merchants, religious refugees, and as slaves, into a hitherto homogenous Lutheran Danish monarchy itself.
The project shows how the need to legitimate thee new political, religious and commercial conditions was a central motivation in the introduction of natural law as an academic discipline in Denmark. It shows how natural law provided the new social, political and legal teachings commensurate with the needs of the Danish colonial state. It also shows how natural law discourses and ideas informed scholarly and public discussions of the social, political and religious development following from Danish colonialism. These ranged from, for instance, discussions of the laws and religion of the Greenland Inuit to the racial and legal order of the Danish West Indies.
Mads Langballe Jensen
Jensen, Mikkel Munthe
Institutionalising the law of nature and nations: The universities of Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock 1648–1806
The project is about the history of the teaching of natural law at the three north German universities in Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock during the period 1648–1806. It is concerned with why, how and to what extent this academic discipline developed in three different political settings along the Baltic coast. The project is based on the general presumption that natural law was of great significance for the period’s intellectual development and state building endeavours. The general aim of the project is to show that “modern” natural law, even at smaller north German universities, was playing an important role in this matter
Funding: DFG (€ 350.000), Period: 01.07.2022-30.06.2026
For more information see project webpage
Natural Law 1625-1850: Database
The natural law database is first and foremost a detailed open reservoir of knowledge that contains not only structured biographical and bibliographical data but also links to digitalised source material as well as commentaries made by individual specialists. Building upon this reservoir, a long-term goal is to develop and implement analytical visualisation tools in the database, so users easily can conduct both general and specialised data explorations. The creation of such a database is in essence a transnationally collaborative and open-ended digital enterprise, which also means that populating and expanding the database rely on contributions from the already established research networks within the Natural Law 1625-1850 project and on widening the circle of contributors in the field. The basic aim of the database is thus to provide an essential tool for the Natural Law project to compile and structure data and conduct research on early modern natural law scholars, their works and their institutions.
For more information see project webpage
Laboratories of Conscience: Transfer of the Discourse of Conscience and its Adaptation in Early Modern Russia
Laboratories of Conscience: Transfer of the Discourse of Conscience and its Adaptation in Early Modern Russia
The new research project builds on the results of the habilitation: The logic of convent detention in Russia developed in the course of the 18th century from purely punishment to the improvement of the delinquent. Through practices such as work, asceticism and penance, the lawbreaker was to be conformed to the norms of law-abiding life. Under the "enlightened empress" Catherine II, the aspect of exhortation became increasingly important, and the conscience was more and more the target of the address. The conscience becomes an internal instance of judgement and control to which the state appeals in order to regulate human action.
Conscience in the sense of a rational instance of self-examination replaces the concept of the soul in penal sentences. One does not break the law of the monarch or the church - not because of the fear of worldly punishment or eternal hell, but because of conscience. Conscience, inherent in every human being, is no longer bound to the torments of the Last Judgement. But the Orthodox clergy also appeals to the conscience, for it is the instance that makes rational-enlightened piety possible. The discourse of natural law becomes important in the just-expanding Russian Empire: the virtue of servility can be spread to non-Christians.
The significance of conscience for the stabilisation of rule has so far been a research desideratum for both the history of punishment and the history of mentality in Russia in the "long" 18th century. The transfer of Protestant discourse from Western Europe, especially from German countries, France, Denmark and Sweden, has also hardly been studied; the same applies to parallel movements in the Polish Noble Republic and in Russia with regard to discourses of conscience. The simultaneity of the influence of the Jesuits from Catholic Poland and the Pietists from Germany on moral-theological discourse in Russia brought about a peculiar discursive melange from which the elites helped themselves as needed.
Previous research on the moral regulation of subjects has focused primarily on the writings of Catherine II herself and her decrees on public administration and prison reform. Using the hitherto unexamined court proceedings of sovestnye sudy, courts of conscience (1775-1866), who argued with natural law, the effect of the concept of conscience into society and its role as an element of inner work on oneself will be examined. The "judges of conscience" legitimised their judgements not only with the instructions of the "merciful empress", but also with the moral-theological teachings of the time, which were known to them from the published philosophical teachings and sermons, - and pronounced much more humane punishments than the church (synod) or secular authorities.
Malaspina, Elisabetta Fiocchi
Teaching Natural Law and Law of Nations in the Italian peninsula
Teaching Natural Law and Law of Nations in the Italian peninsula
The small states of the Italian peninsula in the 18th and early 19th century invite comparative studies of the cultivation of natural law and the law of nations, how these ideas circulated and were used not only through textbooks but also through the teaching of these disciplines in the different university contexts.
The chairs of natural law and the law of nations were founded later in Italy than in the German lands. Among the reasons for this delay was the suspicion with which Catholic sovereigns, particularly in the first part of the 18th century, looked at natural law because it was not studied as part of canon law, and because leading theories of natural law distinguished it sharply from moral theology. What is more, natural law was considered dangerous for sovereigns due to its contractual theory of sovereignty.
Only in the second half of the 18th century were chairs established in various Italian states, almost always those politically or culturally dependent on Austria. In many cases the teaching of natural law were linked to courses in public law, public universal law and the law of nations. In order to understand the iter of the chairs in Italy it is important to be aware of the distinctive rules for university curricula and their reforms.
2. Initial overview
Giovanni Battista Bilesimo taught iuris publici 1762-1763; iuris publici vel gentium 1764-1765 and iuris publici et gentium 1766-1767. He held the chair until 1769, followed by a vacancy for four years;
Matteo Franzoja taught moral philosophy and natural law from 1773 to 1808 (using Wolff’s works);
Alessandro Barca taught natural and social law from 1809 to 1813;
Giuseppe Barbieri, taught natural and social law 1813-1815;
Giuseppe Barbieri was temporary professor of private and public natural law and law of nations from 1815 to 1819;
Luigi Mabil was professor from 1819 to 1824;
Giuseppe Todeschini Munari was professor from 1815 to 1843;
Giampaolo Tolomei was professor from 1844 to 1855 (when natural law became philosophy of law)
From 1742 Venanzio de Mays, ad lecturam iuris publici et civilis;
Reforms of the law faculty 1771-1773 introduced a course on natural and public law;
Jean Baptiste Noël de Saint Clair, professor of natural and public law 1769-1796. His lectures are collected in the Institutiones iuris naturalis and Institutiones iuris publici universalis, (manuscript works preserved at the University Library of Pavia);
Pietro Tamburini, professor of Moral Philosophy, and Natural and Public law from 1796 to 1818. His lectures published in 1803 were entitled Introduzione allo studio della filosofia morale;
Francesco Alpruni, course on Moral Philosophy and Natural and law of nations, from 1800 to 1802;
Ignazio Beretta, supply teacher for the year 1808-1809 for Tamburini;
Carlo Giuseppe Gabba, course on public law and law of nations for the year 1803-1804;
Giulio Bellardi Granelli for the years 1818-1846;
Carlo Rinaldini for the years 1845-1852;
Pietro Barinetti for the years 1852-1854;
Course de iure pubblico, established for the first time in 1726, first professor Pompeo Neri;
Francesco Niccola Bandiera, natural law and law of nations from 1739 to 1766;
Giovanni Maria Lampredi from 1766 to 1792; for the year 1792-1793 was emeritus. Lampredi is author of De licentia in hostem, of Juris publici universali, sive iuri naturae at gentium theoremata (1776-1778), that was used as a manual for teaching natural law, and of Del commercio dei popoli neutrali in tempo di guerra (1788);
Piero Ranucci (1796-1797), ordinarius Juris publici universalis, title of the course: De Juris naturae in studio civilis jurisprudentiae praesidio;
Filippo del Signore (1798-1799), as ordinarius Juris publici universalis, until 1807-1808 (with some interruptions of teaching);
Giovanni Carmignani (1839-1841), Philosophia iuris: from natural law to the history of legal philosophy, author of Prodromo d’un insegnamento della Filosofia del diritto esposto in tre lezioni (1841);
Federigo Del Rosso (1842-1847), taught Philosophia iuris;
Giovanni Battista Giorgini (1849-1852) professor of Legal philosophy;
Paolo Emilio Imbriani (1859-1861), professor of natural law and law of nations.
First chair 1764: Bartolomeo Valdrighi entitled Diritto pubblico
First chair 1778
First chair middle of the 18th Century, Cristoforo Zoppi
Giacinto Sigismondo Gerdil 1750
Reform in 1773. First chair 1788
First chair 1750, professor Pasquale Cirillo
In 1767 Antonio Genovesi asked the Minister Bernardo Tanucci to include ius naturae et gentium within the university courses.
Marco Antonio Vogli, first chair in 1779, natural and public law
Bernardino Mezzanotte, 1799, first chair of natural law
Giuseppe Colizzi 1810 as supply teacher
Pietro Antonio Magalotti 1812
Giuseppe Colizzi 1816 as supply teacher, from 1823 to 1824 he taught natural jurisprudence, then natural law until 1831
Emilio Barbanera (1848-1851)
Giovanni Battista Cambi (1851-1852)
Bonfiglio Mura (1853-1861)
Further details for these and several additional centers will be posted in due course.
In all of these cases there are unpublished lectures of the professors and other documents in the respective archives. The aim is to digitize the most relevant material, subject to funding and permission.
The Circulation of the Ecole Romande du Droit Naturel in Eighteenth-Century Italy
The research project focuses on the publication, translation and circulation of the works of Jean Barbeyrac, Jean Jacques Burlamaqui and Emer de Vattel in the Italian peninsula during the eighteenth century. At the beginning of the century, the so-called Ecole romande du droit naturel was established in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and achieved great success in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The project proposes to retrace the ways in which the texts of this so-called school were used and adapted to the Italian context (which was extremely different from the one in which these works were written and published), in order to contribute to the constitutionalisation and transformation process of the Italian states during the eighteenth century.
Also the circulation and use of the law of nations played a central role in the geopolitical context of Italy within Europe during the eighteenth-century. For example Emer de Vattel’s Droit des gens (1758), was not classified as merely a text on the law of nations. On the contrary, it was a benchmark for domestic law and diplomacy that provided a political and juridical guide for the foreign office of the small Italian states. The references to Vattel’s work are numerous and continuous in the diplomacy of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Sardinia’s territory, Venice and Lombardy.
The aim is to trace the process of appropriation and reproduction of law of nations theories in the Italian peninsula during the eighteenth century and to investigate how texts on natural law and the law of nations, such as those by Barbeyrac, Burlamaqui and Vattel, circulated and were used. The focus of the investigation is on doctrinal positions and academic teaching.
A ”Swedish” International Law 1648-1815? The doctrines and teaching of international law at the Swedish universities
The development of international law as a teaching subject at the Swedish universities goes hand in hand with natural law. The ideas of Hugo Grotius as they were presented in “De jure belli ac pacis” played an important role for the introduction of both subjects in the academic curricula. The statutes of Uppsala University were revised in the 1650ies under the aegis of the university chancellor M. G. De la Gardie and in the correspondence with his former teacher Mattias Biörenclou – Swedish delegate at the peace negotiations in Osnabrück and Münster – it was pointed out, that it was desirable to furnish the university with three chairs in law. According to the proposal of Biörenclou, the holder of the first chair should be responsible for giving lectures in natural law and international law in accordance with Grotius, the second professor should answer for Roman law and the third for Swedish law. Biörenclou described “De iure belli ac pacis” as a “golden book”, necessary for the statesman as well as for the legislator. Despite the original plans, an ordinary chair in natural and international law was not established at the Uppsala University. In the statutes, however, natural law became a kind of mandatory pedagogic tool – or even a superior ideology – in the disciplines of the two ordinary chairs of law: the professor in Swedish law should show the more progressed students how the law of the land had its roots in both natural and divine law and his colleague, the professor in Roman law, should in a similar way rather seek the foundations of Roman legislation in natural law than in the views of the many but futile interpreters. The international law was not forgotten: the two professors should exert themselves to give private lectures in the discipline on an annually basis or delegate the matter to an assistant master. Topics related to natural law could also be treated by the faculty of philosophy: the professor in “philosophia civilis”, i.e. practical philosophy, should primarily base his lectures on Aristotle but was allowed to devote himself to other authors as well, especially in his private teaching. In other words: the introduction of natural and international law as a discipline at the Swedish universities was no coincidence – it was the result of a deliberate policy. This policy also had consequences when new or vacant university chairs were to be filled. Most well-known – but not unique in its kind ? is the call of Samuel Pufendorf to Lund University. In Lund, the law faculty was provided with three chairs and Pufendorf was appointed “professor jurisprudentiae primarius” with a proportionately generous salary. Here also his “De jure naturae et gentium” (1672) and “De officio hominis et civis” (1673) were printed. Pufendorf’s importance for the development of natural and international law at the Swedish universities can hardly be overestimated.
The developments up to the Peace of Westphalia and the role of Sweden in the European state system thereafter had in other words direct impact on the curriculum of the country’s universities – and this for a long period of time: formally, the university statutes were not revised until 1852. The notion of the Peace of Westphalia as a caesura in European history can be regarded as an established “truth” ? in the historiography of international law the peace treaty and its effects has been studied at length. The Peace has also been used as a landmark in different periodizations, e.g. in Wilhelm G. Grewe’s “Epochen der Völkerrechtsgeschichte/The Epochs of International Law” (1984, English translation 2000) where the author from a political perspective describes the period between the Peace of Westphalia and the Congress of Vienna as an epoch of “Droit public de l’Europe” or “Die Völkerrechtsordnung des französischen Zeitalters 1648-1815”. Even if Grewe’s division into epochs can be discussed, it has been followed by Karl-Heinz Ziegler in his “Völkerrechtsgeschichte” (1994) and we believe that a similar temporal limitation of our project can be defended on good grounds – especially since Sweden was one of the guarantee powers of the Peace of Westphalia.
Questions concerning the historical development of international law have during the last 10-15 years enjoyed a growing interest among researchers in the fields of history, legal history and positive international law. A number of research projects have been launched outside the borders of Sweden and since 1999, a scientific journal, explicitly devoted to the subject ? “Journal of the History of International Law/Revue d’histoire du droit international“ ? is being published. Nevertheless: important aspects of the development of international law within Sweden have never or only superficially been subject of investigation. This is especially the case of international law as an academic discipline, being observed from an internal perspective where the established ? essentially Continental European ? doctrine is put in focus as it was presented for the students, i.e. for the future civil servants of an emerging and increasingly professionalized administrative organisation. The existing studies of the development of international law in Sweden discuss the subject either from a more general legal history perspective or a narrower, institutional (university history) perspective. Regarding natural law (jus naturale), historically the sister subject of international law (jus gentium), studies including broader perspectives are available. A need of research exists also in matters concerning the relations between policymaking and teaching.
Our project aims to investigate the doctrines and teaching of international law at the Swedish universities during the period 1648-1815. The investigation of the international law teaching will be conducted by Per Nilsén and result in a monography. In the rich source material relevant for this study, the Swedish university lecture catalogues stands out. Evidently, they are of central importance for our project but are also of a wider, general interest. Because of that, a digitalization of the issues ca. 1620-1815 is planned within the frames of the project. Joachim Östlund will analyze the teaching in international law when the international status of Sweden declined in the 18th century and when neutrality became the dominant strategy of Sweden´s foreign policies. In the long distance trade areas, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, neutrality provided Sweden with a crucial competitive advantage. The aim of Östlunds project is to show how neutrality strategies influenced the teaching in international law. At the same time, we plan a series of workshops devoted to the history of early modern international law theory in the Baltic area. Those workshops will result in a publication, which can be used as a textbook in the history of North European international law – comprehensive in outline, detailed in the regional aspects. The mentioned activities will, so we hope, put the history of international law on the map not only in a Swedish, but in a Scandinavian/Baltic perspective. In that way, the project will provide a considerable, long-term reinforcement and renewal of early modern research and generate interest in further investigations and a strengthening of the interdisciplinary environment in question. As K.-H. Ziegler puts it in his “Völkerrechtsgeschichte”: “Jede vertiefte Betrachtung des Rechts bedarf der historischen Perspektive. Das gilt in besonderem Maße für das Völkerrecht, denn wie kein anderes Gebiet des geltenden Rechts ist es mit der Geschichte verbunden”. An application for a planning grant was approved by Riksbankens jubileumsfond in 2011; an application for the total project was rejected by Riksbankens jubileumsfond in 2012.
A commentated edition of David Nehrman Ehrenstråles (1695-1769) lectures on Swedish constitutional law
David Nehrman (1695–1769) was professor in Swedish and Roman law at the Lund University from 1721 to 1753. Having this position at the rather small, provincial university in southern Sweden – one out of totally four universities in the realm, including the German university in Greifswald – meant being responsible for teaching the whole field of legal disciplines. David Nehrman’s lectures were highly estimated by his contemporaries, they were written down in student’s manuscripts and circulated in the country and quite a few were also edited by David Nehrman himself and published as textbooks: in 1729 his Introduction to Swedish Private Law (Inledningtil then swenskajurisprudentiamcivilem) was published, followed in 1732 by a similar Introduction to Swedish Private Procedure (Inledningtil then swenskaprocessumcivilem). The Swedish Code of 1734 – which finally replaced the mediaeval rural and urban codes – came into force in 1736. This did not only necessitate updated versions of the already published works (a supplement to his introduction to private law was published in 1746 and a new edition of the introduction to private procedure came in 1751), but also stimulated to new publications: Lectures on the Book on Marriage (Föreläsningaröfwergiftermålsbalken ), Lectures on the Book on Inheritance (Föreläsningaröfwerärfdabalken ), and two new Introductions: one to Swedish Criminal Law (Inledningtil then swenskajurisprudentiamcriminalem ) and one to Swedish Criminal Procedure (Inledningtil then swenskaprocessumcriminalem ).
David Nehrman was born in Malmö in 1695 – 37 years after the annexation of the former Danish province of Scania to Sweden in 1658. In order to make good Swedish subjects of the inhabitants of the province, a university was opened in the neighbouring cathedral city of Lund in 1668. But the actual peace was short-lived: in 1676–1682 and in 1709 the academic activities were discontinued as a consequence of war and in 1712, the plague raged in both cities. There were no possibilities to study law at the province’s university and the young David Nehrman had to seek other ways – following the Swedish tradition of peregrination, he studied at several foreign (mainly protestant German) universities, such as Rostock, Jena and Halle. In Halle, Nehrman was profoundly influenced by the natural law thinking of the period. Being tired of teaching after 32 years in Lund, Nehrman – in 1746 raised to nobility as Ehrenstråle – retired in 1753 to his estate in the province of Småland. Here his library was kept for many years after his death. Today, the library is a part of the collection of the City Library in Linköping.
The works of David Nehrman Ehrenstråle have had a long lasting value for Swedish law: not only as manifested in the mentioned textbooks, but also in the numerous student manuscripts. There are also manuscripts, written by Nehrman himself, which have not been published, e.g. his lectures on Swedish constitutional law (written between 1731 and 1739). In this manuscript of 623 pages, the author gives rather precise references to the literature he used in composing his lectures: approximately 35 titles are of Swedish origin, 35 of German, two of Dutch. Danish titles have been used four times, English six and French two times. In studying Nehrman’s work in this way, it is possible to not only to get a first-hand picture of the Swedish constitutional law of the period but also to get a good overview of the scientific (cross-border) world of one of the most important scholars in Swedish legal history. The publication of this manuscript with commentaries regarding Nehrman’s sources and literature has been discussed several times and is now well under way. An application concerning (part-) funding was approved by Institutet för rättshistorisk forskning – Olin Foundation – Grundatav Gustav och Carin Olin in 2011.
The interaction between natural law, moral philosophy and history in the historical works of Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754)
These studies are part of a research project organized by Jørgen Magnus Sejersted at the University of Bergen (Norway) and connected to the planned digital edition of Holberg's collected works.
The diffusion and reception of ideas and theories in the Baltic provinces of Swedish and Russian empires (17th c. - early 20th c.)
The diffusion and reception of ideas and theories in the Baltic provinces of Swedish and Russian empires (17th c. - early 20th c.)
The project studies mainly the dissertations and other sources of intellectual history that are part of the collections of Tartu University Library. It employs six researchers (Arvo Tering, Jürgen Beyer, Meelis Friedenthal, Aira Võsa, Lea Leppik, Ljudmila Dubjeva) who study different fields of intellectual history (theology, medicine, history, astronomy, etc.). The project is interested in questions such as the spread of ideas from centres to peripheries, the tension between imperial centres and the provinces, the transformation of ideas in the course of the reception, and their assimilation according to local ideological, political and social contexts
As part of the project, a database of 17th-century disputations and dissertations at the University of Tartu was created and corrected the database of 17th century prints in Tartu. The director's research within this project concerns the development of legal traditions in the Baltic provinces, including the reception of modern natural law.
International law between natural law and a code of civility: discourses of international morality in early modern northern Europe
The project is going to focus on the replacement of the universalist, natural-law based aspirations of seventeenth-century international law scholars with a Euro-centric conception of 'international law of civilized nations', and on the reception and development of these views in Northern Europe.
Laws for Desirous Beings: Anthropology, Sociability and the Crisis of Natural Right in German Enlightenment Thought
Monograph project pursued at the John U Nef Committee on Social Thought, University Of Chicago, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2015-2016, continued at Friedrich Schiller University Jena.
Natural law teaching at Jena, c. 1740-1820
The project explores the teaching of natural law during a crucial period of intellectual transformation from the theories of Christian Wolff, Christian Thomasius and their respective followers to the reformulation of natural law in the wake of Kant’s epistemology and moral philosophy. While many scholars claim that natural law was demolished by the rise of positivism, utilitarianism and the German historical school of law around 1800, the project advances the claim that the reformulation of natural law which it went through in the last decades of the eighteenth century preserved it as a critical legal, moral, and political idiom of liberal reform in the nineteenth century. By focusing on the “engine room” of academic teaching we want to gain a clearer and more detailed understanding of the processes of reformulation of given theories and vocabularies of natural law as well as the inclusion of new themes by members of the different faculties of law and philosophy, which were competing in the teaching of natural law at Jena. An obvious point of departure for the project is the work and teaching of the philosopher, lawyer and economist Joachim Georg Darjes (1714-1791) who taught at Jena from 1735 to 1763. Darjes is central because he both set up a continuous stream of lecture courses on natural law and further developed Wolffianism in his teaching, transferring it into the new science of political economy. One aspect of the project here will be how his lectures, textbooks and the works of his students did reflect this transformation to questions of political economy. Another aspect will deal with his critical engagement with the Thomasius-school, especially in his theory of action. From Darjes distinction between inner and outer freedom the project moves on to the debates of the 1790s. It is often ignored that some of the most crucial German texts on natural law in the later eighteenth-century, such as Fichte’s Foundations of Natural Law according to the Principles of the ‘Wissenschaftslehre’ of 1796 and 1797 were basically course-books. The university of Jena in the 1790s here is of particular interest because some of Germany’s most aspiring young legal thinkers and philosophers competed simultaneously for academic fame and (paying) students. Here the aim of the project is to bring these competing lecture courses, and their printed offshoots, in a closer dialogue by studying lecture notes, correspondence and reviews by students who often were to become influential scholars and philosophers themselves.
Natural law in Switzerland and beyond: sociability, natural equality, social inequality
The research project forms the Swiss contribution to the international network. Funded by the Swiss National Foundation, it has been conducted at the Philosophy Department of the University of Lausanne, 2014-2018. One of its goals consisted in collecting primary and secondary literature as well as digitizing manuscript sources documenting the teaching of natural law at various Swiss institutions. The focus was on materials related to the ‘école romande du droit naturel’, with its main representatives Jean Barbeyrac, who taught natural law at the protestant Academy of Lausanne (1711-1718), and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, who was professor of natural and civil law at the Academy of Geneva (1723-1739). The project also accounts for little known teachers of natural law in the Suisse romande and at other Swiss institutions of higher education (Basel, Berne, Zurich, Fribourg). Natural Law in Switzerland.
The second goal of the project was to study major themes in the Swiss, French, Scottish and partly also the Italian natural law traditions. The results can be presented under four headings:
1/ Tracing important changes in the account of the social relationships within the family, or household (husband and wife, parents and children, master and servant, or slave) in modern natural law from the 17th to the late 18th century: the major outcome will be a doctoral dissertation, which analyses the hypothetical-historical account the Scottish jurist John Millar provided of social inequalities and of domination within the family. In order to bring out the originality of Millar’s position, the dissertation first reassesses the contractual justification of social hierarchies within the family in 17th century natural law theories (Hobbes, Pufendorf, Locke). It then examines how these theories were discussed and modified in the Scottish enlightenment (Hutcheson, Hume, Smith), which took a more descriptive and historical turn in assessing social relationships and related institutional settings. Complementary studies on the classical 17th century theories and their reception in the context of the French enlightenment will be presented in a paper on Rousseau’s major deviation from Pufendorf’s theory in his account of the relationship between the sexes, and in a paper on human dignity and equality in Pufendorf’s natural law doctrine and his theory of servitude, or slavery. Continuities and discontinuities between the French and the Scottish enlightenment on these themes are presented in the paper ‘Métamorphoses de la sympathie’.
2/ The law of nations and natural law: this theme is treated in the volume The Law of Nations and Natural Law 1625-1800, which was prepared by the second workshop of the international network at the University of Lausanne in 2015. This volume explores, for the first time, a wide range of formerly obscure literature related to the law of nature and nations. It presents studies conducted by participants in the international network, many of whom are currently working on archival materials related to the teaching of the law of nature and nations in various European countries, as for example in Switzerland and Denmark. These case studies show how the conception of the law of nations varied in intellectual content and practical function, depending on the contexts in which it was developed and applied. They are supplemented by new interpretations of classic texts in the field and by studies of figures and theories hitherto largely neglected in research. The volume is supplemented by more specific studies devoted to Emer de Vattel’s treatise on the law of nations.
3/ Natural law and moral sentimentalism: a series of studies has been devoted to Francis Hutcheson, notably to his treatment of luxury, which differed remarkably from that of Mandeville, and to his critique of slavery and the colonies’ right of resistance.
4/ Liberty, equality and the perfectibility of mankind in B. Constant’s liberal constitutionalism. This theme is dealt with in yet another dissertation project. The main idea here consists in reassessing the legacy of Enlightenment natural law in the post-revolutionary period. Major chapters concern Constant’s account of the liberty of the Moderns and individual rights, his controversy with Bentham about the place of individual rights in moral and political philosophy, and his highly critical commentary on Gaetano Filangieri’s Scienza della legislazione, a major outcome of the natural law tradition in modern Italy.
Together, these studies highlight the significance of the modern natural law tradition, especially in its distinctive Swiss manifestations, for understanding key concepts in modern and contemporary legal and moral discourse.
- Adzado has defended (but not published) his thesis: Du droit naturel modern au libéralisme politique: le cas Benjamin Constant, (Diss. Lausanne 2020).
- Justine’s dissertation has been published: Autorité, sociabilité et passions: la philosophie de la famille de Thomas Hobbes à John Millar (Basel: Schwabe, 2022), url: https://schwabe.ch/justine-roulin-autorite-sociabilite-et-passions-978-3-7965-4371-5