Tobias Asser

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Dutch pronunciation: [ˈtoːbiɑsmiˈʃɛlˈkaːrəlˈɑsər] ; 28 April 1838 – 29 July 1913) was a Dutch lawyer and legal scholar. In 1911, he won the Nobel Peace Prize (together with Alfred Fried) for his work in the field of private international law, and in particular for his achievements establishing the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH).



Tobias Michael Carel Asser was born on 28 April 1838 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in a Jewish family. [1] [2] He was the son of Carel Daniel Asser (1813–1885) and grandson of Carel Asser (1780–1836). He studied law at the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University and was a law professor at the University of Amsterdam.

Asser co-founded the Revue de Droit International et de Législation Comparée with John Westlake and Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns. He also co-founded the Institut de Droit International [3] in 1873. In 1880 he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. [4]

The Hague Conference on Private International Law

Asser was a leading legal mind in the area of private international law and firmly believed that sound legal frameworks that govern private cross-border relationships would promote peace and stability. In 1893, Asser initiated the convocation of the First Diplomatic Session of the HCCH, the preeminent global organisation in the area of private international law. The participating States were Austria-Hungary, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, and Switzerland. Asser was elected the Session's President, and subsequently re-elected at the Second to Fourth Session which took place in 1894, 1900 and 1904 respectively. Under his leadership, the HCCH developed some multilateral treaties, the Hague Conventions, that unified the rules of private international law in the areas of Marriage (1902), Divorce (1902), Guardianship (1902), Civil Procedure (1905), Effects of Marriage (1905), and Deprivation of Civil Rights (1905).

In 1911, Asser received the Nobel Prize for Peace. In his Award Ceremony Speech on 10 December 1911, Chairman of the Nobel Committee Jørgen Gunnarsson Løvland emphasised specifically Asser's work in the field of private international law, and his achievements in establishing the HCCH, as reasons for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, describing Asser as "a successor to or reviver of The Netherlands' pioneer work in international law in the seventeenth century", the Hugo Grotius of his time. [5]

The Hague Peace Conferences

He was a delegate of the Netherlands to both Hague Peace Conferences in 1899 and 1907. [3]

The Permanent Court of Arbitration

In 1902, he sat on the first arbitration panel to hear an international controversy brought by two states under the auspice of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which was established as a result of the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 (the Pious Fund of the Californias Case). He also took a hand in the establishment of what would become The Hague Academy of International Law, though he did not live to see its foundation in 1923. [3]

Asser died on 29 July 1913 in The Hague.


A research institute in the fields of Private and Public International Law, European Law and International Commercial Arbitration is named after Tobias Michael Carel Asser. This is the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, based in The Hague, Netherlands. [6]

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  1. In quest of liberty, justice, and peace: a new biography on Asser’s private and public life. Asser Institute. Retrieved on 22 July 2023.
  2. (in Dutch) C. G. Roelofsen, "Asser, Tobias Michel Karel (1838–1913)", Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland , 2013. Retrieved on 5 May 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 "In Memoriam: T. M. C. Asser". American Journal of International Law . 8 (2). American Society of International Law: 343–44. April 1914. doi: 10.1017/S0002930000769867 .
  4. "Tobias Michaël Carel Asser (1838–1913)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  5. "Tobias Asser – Facts". Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  6. "Tobias M.C. Asser". T.M.C. Asser Instituut. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
Tobias Asser
Tobias Asser in 1911
Tobias Michel Karel Asser

(1838-04-28)28 April 1838
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died29 July 1913(1913-07-29) (aged 75)
The Hague, Netherlands
Known forFounder of the Permanent Court of Arbitration
Johanna Ernestina Asser
(m. 1864)
Parent(s)Carel Daniël Asser sr. (father)
Rosette Godefroi (mother)
Awards Nobel Peace Prize (1911)
Academic background
Alma mater Athenaeum Illustre of Amsterdam
Leiden University (PhD
Thesis Geschiedenis der beginselen van het Nederlandsche Staatsregt omtrent het bestuur der buitenlandsche betrekkingen (1860)
Doctoral advisor Simon Vissering