Vitoria, Francisco de (1486–1546)

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Vitoria, Francisco de (1486–1546)

Francisco de Vitoria (b. 1486; d. 12 August 1546), one of the founders of international law. Francisco de Vitoria, a Dominican friar, was the prima (senior) professor of theology at the University of Salamanca (1526–1546). His published works include De Indis I (1537/1538) and De Indis II or Dure jure belli (1538/1539), collections of lectures published posthumously. Vitoria outlined the rights of Spaniards in the New World and wrestled with the moral questions raised when a government founded on Christian principles imposes its will on pagans. Subscribing to the Thomistic theory that all men (including pagans) are rational beings who belong to a worldwide community based on natural law and a law of nations (jus gentium), Vitoria argued that Spaniards should respect the political sovereignty and property rights of the native peoples they found in the Indies. Thus, Spaniards did not have any inherent rights over subjects in the New World based on jurisdiction. War was justified only if natives prevented Spaniards from trading and living with them in peace, practiced cannibalism, refused to allow missionaries to preach, or discouraged conversion to Christianity.

See alsoCatholic Church: The Colonial Period; Dominicans.


J. A. Fernández-Santamaría, The State, War, and Peace: Spanish Political Thought in the Renaissance, 1516–1559 (1977), esp. pp. 58-119.

Bernice Hamilton, Political Thought in Sixteenth-Century Spain (1963), esp. pp. 119-134 and 171-176.

Additional Bibliography

Barrientos García, José. Un siglo de moral económica en Salamanca, 1526–1629. Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 1985.

Castilla Urbano, Francisco. El pensamiento de Francisco de Vitoria: Filosofía política e indio americano. Barcelona: Anthropos, Editorial del Hombre; Iztapalapa, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Iztapalapa, 1992.

Hernández Martín, Ramón. Francisco de Vitoria y su Releción sobre los indios: Los derechos de los hombres y de los pueblos. Madrid: Edibesa, 1998.

Goti Ordeñana, Juan. Del Tratado de Tordesillas a la doctrina de los derechos fundamentales en Francisco de Vitoria. Valladolid, Spain: Secretariado de Publicaciones e Intercambio Científico, Universidad de Valladolid, 1999.

Ramos Pérez, Demetrio. La Etica en la conquista de America: Francisco de Vitoria y la Escuela de Salamanca. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1984.

Rovira, María del Carmen. Francisco de Vitoria: España y America el poder y el hombre. Mexico City: Miguel Angel Porrúa, 2004.

                              Suzanne Hiles Burkholder