Development of International Law as Law

The fundamental tenets of international law have been formulated in the 16th to 18th century by various well-known jurists. The structure and development of public international law is connected with the era of sovereign national States dealing with each other as independent entities. In this sense, therefore, the history of this law can be regarded as beginning in the 16th century with the emergence of independent nation states from the ruins of the medieval

Holy Roman Empire which was based on the claims to universal authority of the Pope as the spiritual, and the emperor as the temporal, head of Christian nations of Europe.

 

Before 16th Century B.C.

The English jurists have always claimed that they have laid the foundation for international law. However, the history of various religions reveal otherwise. It is believed that the Jews had relations with other countries and had always respected the international treaties. They also provided immunities to diplomatic envoys.

Hindu’s scriptures such as the Ramayana also ascertain the fact that there existed sovereign states in that era. Though the Ramayana cannot be considered as a conclusive evidence, the Arthashastra written by Kautilya clear states the rules for diplomacy and rights of envoys

The Muslim rulers also had relations with the other states. Combatants and noncombatants were recognised by the Muslim rulers and they also had rules to protect women and children.

 

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Church played a very important role in the Middle Ages and was considered to be powerful. The whole of Europe was one religion though there were many tribal communities. This period also saw a conflict between the Church and the Roman Empire. Another obstacle in the growth of The English jurists have always claimed that they have laid the foundation for international law. However, the history of various religions reveal otherwise. It is believed that the Jews had relations with other countries and had always respected the international treaties. They also provided immunities to diplomatic envoys.

Hindus scriptures such as the Ramayana also ascertain the fact that there existed sovereign states in that era. Though the Ramayana cannot be considered as a conclusive evidence, the Arthashastra written by Kautilya clear states the rules for diplomacy and rights of envoys. The Muslim rulers also had relations with the other states. Combatants and noncombatants were recognised by the Muslim rulers and they also had rules to protect women and children.

 

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Church played a very important role in the Middle Ages and was considered to be powerful. The whole of Europe was one religion though there were many tribal communities. This period also saw a conflict between the Church and the Roman Empire. Another obstacle in the growth of international law in the Middle Ages was the presence of feudalism.

However, the commercial and mercantile law saw a lot of growth. Mercantile courts were set up to adjudge the disputes between various traders. Though a law in the true sense had not emerged, there were various rules and regulations developed. These later contributed towards the development of the international trade law.

Maritime laws had also developed to a large extent. Founded upon the Rhodian Sea Law, a Byzantine work, many of whose rules were enshrined in the Rolls of Oleron in the 12th century, and other maritime textbooks; a series of commonly applied customs relating to the sea permeated the naval powers of the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

These rules and codes laid the foundation for international law. Before they could be developed in a full-fledged way, there was the Renaissance. The collapse of the Byzantine Empire centered on Constantinople before the Turkish Armies in 1453 drove many Greek scholars to seek sanctuary in Italy and enliven Western Europe’s cultural life. After the introduction of printing, dissemination of information had become easier. There was also a setback to Feudalism caused by the rise in the merchant classes. This era also saw the rise of the nation states such as England and France and the interactions between them grew. This shaped the international law further. The Middle Ages was the age of the natural law theory. Naturalists are primarily those who believe that the law of nations is the law of nature and they deny presence of any positive law of nations. Then there was the classical age which saw the thoughts of Grotius and Hobbes.

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