From Imperial History to International Law

Christopher N. Warren

in Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680

Published in print May 2015 | ISBN: 9780198719342
Published online August 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191788550 | DOI:
From Imperial History to International Law

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies


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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

Chapter.  17713 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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