A Brill Calendar: November 1
"Grotius" and Leiden University
Few institutes embody the early struggle against the Habsburgs in the Low Countries as strikingly as Leyden University.
However, during the first decades of its existence the university attracted perhaps a hundred students per annum. A little less than half of them didn’t even hail from the rebellious provinces, but from other European regions. And there can’t have been much anonymity. Each professor and every student must have been known in the city by name and by-name: a tightly knitted network of kinship and affiliation.
The first alumni – mainly lawyers & theologians – had little difficulty finding themselves key-positions in Dutch cities and provinces; whilst also experiencing the unprecedented changes in religion and politics at first hand. After their final examinations they often maintained close links with their Alma Mater. In the historical rise of modern nation states it is seldom that an Institute of High and Advanced Learning attains such a status.
The case of Hugo de Groot (Delft, 1583 – Rostock, 1645) – or ‘Grotius’, as all learned Europe came to know him during the 17th century – is typical. The founding father of international law, matriculated in 1594 as a boy of eleven, and as a young man became a successful advocate in The Hague.
During his period he was asked, via his ‘Leyden Connection’, to formulate a plea for the idea that harassing the Spanish oppressor and disowning this foe of possessions and ships with all they contained could be justified by law. When alumnus de Groot completed his treatise, ‘De iure praeda’ – ‘On the Right of Bounty’ – November 1, 1606, the Estates-General, the country’s highest authority, (embodied in its first ‘Stadtholder’ and Captain-General, Maurits, Prince of Orange - another Leyden alumnus), had every reason to be beholden to him and further his ascendancy.