This article contextualises the origins of the term Grotian Moment, coined and frequently redefined by Richard Falk. By generating a conceptual history of the idea and its uses, the article draws attention to the ways that Falk’s sustained interest in the question of temporality and the nature of change in international law can inform present legal debates. The recovery of Falk’s efforts to engage with critics, geopolitical changes, and new legal ideas by reinterpreting and reimagining the meaning of a Grotian Moment sheds light on its relationship to questions of free trade, Eurocentrism, and revolutions in international law. By considering the methodological parallels with the work of Reinhart Koselleck, this article emphasises the importance of both historiographical and historical debates for the study of change in legal history, the analysis of the global legacies of Hugo Grotius, and the generation of expectations of the future in international law.
The early Spanish Enlightenment was shaped by debates over corporations, sovereignty, and the balance of power in Europe. Spanish officials, in this context, turned to the ideas of Hugo Grotius to establish joint-stock companies that could allow the Crown to regain control over its imperial domains and establish perpetual peace in Europe. This article recovers the writings of Félix Fernando de Sotomayor, Duke of Sotomayor (1684–1767), who drew on the works of Grotius, Samuel Pufendorf, and Charles Dutot in order to show that the history of these corporations chronicled the contestation and erosion of Spanish power and the diversion of European states from their true interests. Sovereigns, not merchants, argued Sotomayor, could guarantee fair trade and the equitable distribution of wealth. The study of Sotomayor’s views on trade, natural law, and alienation challenges traditional interpretations about the Iberian engagement with Grotius, the rise of capitalist hopes in Southern and Northern Europe, and Spain’s investment in the Enlightenment.