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Jeremy Bentham's career as a writer spanned almost seventy years, from the Seven Years' War to the early 1830s, a period contemporaries called an age of revolutions and more recent historians have seen as a world crisis. This article traces Bentham's developing universalism in the context of international conflict across his lifetime and in relation to his attempts to create a 'Universal Jurisprudence'. That ambition went unachieved and his successors turned his conception of international law in a more particularist direction. Going back behind Bentham's legacies to his own writings, both published and unpublished, reveals a thinker responsive to specific events but also committed to a universalist vision that helped to make him a precociously global figure in the history of political thought.

Keywords: Bentham; Blackstone; Vattel; global intellectual history; globalisation; international law; internationalism; jurisprudence; natural law; positivism; universalism; utility

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of History, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2011


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