Van Ittersum, Martine: The Politics of Remembrance: Celebrating the Tercentenary of the Publication of Hugo Grotius’ De Jure Belli ac Pacis in The Netherlands in 1925.

This paper examines the celebrations of the tercentenary of the publication of Hugo Grotius’ De Jure Belli ac Pacis in The Netherlands in 1925. It argues that, despite the introduction of universal suffrage in 1919, the Liberal establishment in The Netherlands managed to impose its interpretation of Grotius’ life and work on the celebrations. Supporters of the Dutch chapter of the Society for Peace and the League of Nations, which bankrolled most of the celebrations, sought to present Grotius as a champion of international law and as the complete antithesis of the carnage of WWI. With the exception of the socialists, all other parties in the Dutch Parliament (including Catholic and orthodox Protestant parties) went along with this rather anodyne interpretation of Grotius. For Dutch politicians, it was a safe bet to focus on the internationalist aspects of Grotius’ legacy, and to gloss over his highly controversial involvement in the religious and political disputes of his time. W.J.M. van Eysinga and Cornelis van Vollenhoven –the most distinguished international lawyers produced by The Netherlands in the interbellum period—took advantage of the popular success of the 1925 celebrations by establishing a Society for the Publication of Grotius’ Work. They persuaded the Dutch minister of education (a Christian-Democrat) to fund the monumental edition of Grotius’ correspondence: nearly 10,000 letters would be published between 1928 and 2002 as part of the Rijksgeschiedkundige Publicatiën, a government-sponsored edition of sources on Dutch national history. Arguably, it is this source edition which has allowed scholars in the late 20th and early 21st centuries to arrive at very different understandings of Grotius than the hagiographic tributes paid to the alleged ‘father of international law’ in 1925.