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The Dutch School of Private International Law: Exploring the Doctrine of Comity


The Dutch School of the late 17th century presents a fascinating study in legal theory, particularly concerning the application of foreign laws in different jurisdictions. This discussion delves into the nuances of the Dutch School's approach to Private International Law, focusing on the doctrine of comity and its theoretical underpinnings.

The Discord of the Dutch School

The Dutch School, with its adherence to statutist techniques, showed a peculiar divergence in its consideration of why courts in one country apply the laws of another. Unlike Italian or French scholars, Dutch writers questioned the basis for such cross-border legal application, leading to a reevaluation of traditional legal principles.

The Emergence of the Doctrine of Comity

Pioneered by scholars like P. Voet and Johannes, the Dutch School introduced the doctrine of comity as a theoretical basis for understanding why foreign laws are recognized and enforced. This doctrine emphasized mutual respect among nations and the application of foreign laws within their own boundaries, provided they did not undermine the sovereignty or rights of other states.

Huber's Contribution to Comity

While Huber is often credited with formalizing the doctrine of comity, his role was more in synthesizing local and international principles. Huber's maxims articulated the Dutch School's teachings, emphasizing the territoriality of legal jurisdiction and the mutual respect for foreign laws.

The Theoretical Basis of Huber's Doctrine

Huber's doctrine derived from the division of legislative competence among states, acknowledging each state's jurisdiction over its territory and inhabitants. This territoriality principle, coupled with the doctrine of comity, guided the application of foreign laws while respecting the sovereignty of each state.

Application and Challenges

Huber's treatise on the Conflict of Laws provided practical solutions for applying foreign laws based on connecting factors such as domicile, place of contracting, and intention of the parties. However, challenges remained in determining which laws to apply when facts involved multiple jurisdictions, requiring a nuanced understanding of legal principles and international customs.


The Dutch School's exploration of comity laid the groundwork for modern Private International Law, emphasizing mutual respect among nations and the pragmatic application of foreign laws. While challenges persist in resolving conflicts of laws, the Dutch School's legacy continues to inform legal discourse and shape cross-border jurisprudence.

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