Skip to main content Accesibility Help
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: August 2012

1 - Francisco de Vitoria and the colonial origins of international law


Sir, As I know you will be pleased at the great victory with which Our Lord has crowned my voyage, I write this to you, from which you will learn how in thirty-three days, I passed from the Canary Islands to the Indies with the fleet which the most illustrious king and queen, our sovereigns, gave to me. And there I found many islands filled with people innumerable, and of them all I have taken possession for their highnesses, by proclamation made and with royal standard unfurled and no opposition was offered to me.


While Hugo Grotius is generally regarded as the principal forerunner of modern international law, historians of the discipline trace its primitive origins to the works of Francisco de Vitoria, a sixteenth-century Spanish theologian and jurist. Consequently, it is entirely appropriate that the Carnegie endowment commenced its renowned series of Classics of International Law with Vitoria's two famous lectures, De Indis Noviter Inventis and De Jure Bellis Hispanorum in Barbaros. Traditional approaches to Vitoria's work and his place within the discipline pointed, among other things, to Grotius' indebtedness to the teachings of Vitoria, to Vitoria's identification of certain fundamental theoretical issues confronting the discipline and to the enduring significance of Vitoria's thinking on the law of war and on the rights of dependent peoples.

Vitoria's two lectures, as their titles suggest, are essentially concerned with relations between the Spanish and the Indians.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law
  • Online ISBN: 9780511614262
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *