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Statue of Francisco de Vitoria, Salamanca - photo André Lascaris, 2004

Francisco de Vitoria (around 1485-1546)

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Like Bartoloméo de las Casas Francisco de Vitoria is linked for ever with Latin-American history. It is not certain when and where in Spain he was born. He is said to stem from the region around Álava in the northern province of Asturias. Some say he was born somewhere between 1480 and 1492, others situate his birth between 1483 and 1493. Francisco's parents, Pedro de Vitoria and Catalina de Compludo, had two other sons. Francisco entered the Dominican order, and for some years he lived in the San Pablo convent at Burgos. Between 1506 and 1512 he studied philosophy and theology in Paris. He became a priest in 1509. From 1512 to 1523 he teached at Paris. Together with a Flemish friar, Petrus Crockaert, he was one of the first professors to lecture on the Summa Theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas. In 1520-1521 he published sermons by Pedro de Covarruvias and the Summa Aurea of Saint Anthony of Florence. In 1522 or 1523 he obtained at Paris the title of a doctor of theology. Between 1523 and 1526 he teached theology in Valladolid at the Colego de San Gregorio. From 1526 onwards until his death he teached at Salamanca on the cátedra de prima, the most important chair of theology at this university. In 1527 he studied works of Erasmus in the capacity of an inquisitor as a member of a Spanish theological commission. Earlier Vitoria had written letters to Erasmus. In 1545 Charles V asked him to be a representative at the council of Trent, but ill health prevented him from attending. He died in Salamanca on August 12, 1546.

Being a theologian did not prevent Francisco de Vitoria from discussing juridical matters in his works. In particular his relectiones are marked by this quality. His relectiones appeared in print for the first time in 1557. The number of relectiones depends on how one divides them : one counts eleven, twelve or even thirteen relectiones. The relectio De potestate civili contains a more or less comprehensive theorie of state power. In his relectiones De Indis (written around 1532) and De jure belli he deals with the Spanish conquest and colonisation of America. Spanish Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits took the lead debating this subject during the sixteenth century. Apart from Las Casas one should mention in this respect authors like Melchior Cano, Domingo de Soto, Fernando Vázquez, Diego Covarruvias, Juan del Castillo Sotomayor, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Luis de Molina and Francisco Suárez. In his commentary on Thomas Aquinas he discusses in particular Thomas' views on justice, possession and economical matters. Francisco de Vitoria is sometimes called the father of the law of nations. Although he did not present a strict juridical doctrine on this subject, he certainly was a pioneer in this field. Francisco de Vitoria is a household name in the history of political theory. His efforts also helped in making the university of Salamance into the centre of Spanish juridical thought.

This page contains several matters. After some bibliographical information you will find lists of the editions and translations of Francisco's works. The main part of this page is an extensive selection of studies on Vitoria and the history of the law of nations. At the end a few links point to other interesting websites.

Editions   Translations   Studies   Links


  • Beltrán de Heredia, Vicente, ‘Cronologia de las lecturas y de las relecciones del maestro Vitoria’, Ciencia Tomista 36 (1927) 329-373.
  • González, Ruben C., Francesco de Vitoria. Estudio bibliográfico (Buenos Aires 1946) – see also Ciencia Tomista 72 (1947) 192-198.
  • Ramón Hernández, 'Francisco de Vitoria', in: Robles, Laureano (ed.), Filosofia iberoamericana en la época de Encuentro (Madrid 1992; Enciclopedia iberoamericana de filosofia, I) 223-241.

Note also the information in the journal Anuario de la Asociación Francisco de Vitoria which appears since 1928.

Introduction   Editions   Translations   Studies   Links


  • Comentarios a la Secunda Secundae de Santo Tomás, Vicente Beltrán de Heredia (ed.) (6 vol., Madrid 1932-1952).
  • Relecciones teológicas del maestro fray Francisco de Vitoria, Luis G. Alonso Getino (ed.) (3 vol., Madrid 1933-1935).
  • Friedrich Stegmüller, Francisco de Vitoria y la doctrina de la gracia en la Escuela salmantina (Barcelona 1934) - with an edition of unedited tezts
  • Obras de Francisco Vitoria. Relecciones teologicas, Teofilo Urdánoz (ed. and transl.) (Madrid 1960) - Latin and Spanish
  • Doctrina sobre los Indios : edición facsimilar, Ramon Hernández Martín (transcr. and transl.) (2nd ed., Salamanca 1992).
  • Francisco de Vitoria, De iure belli, ed. and transl. Carlo Galli (Rome 2005).
Introduction   Bibliography   Translations   Studies   Links


  • De Indis et iure belli relectiones being part of Relectiones XII, Ernest Nys (ed.) and John P. Bate (transl.) (Washington, D.C., 1917; reprints New York-London 1964 and Buffalo, N.Y., 1995)
  • De indis recenter inventis et de iure belli Hispanorum in barbaros, Walter Schätzel (ed. and transl.) (Tübingen 1952).
  • Relectio de Indis, Luciana Pereña en José Manuel Pérez Prendes (ed.) (Madrid 1967) (Corpus Hispanorum de Pace, 5).
  • Leçons sur les Indiens et sur le droit de guerre, Maurice Barbier (transl.) (Geneva 1966).
  • Escritos políticos : selección, Luciano Pereña (transl.) (Buenos Aires 1967).
  • Las relecciones del estado de los indios y del derecho de la guerra, Teofilo Urdánoz (transl.) (1974).
  • Leçon sur le pouvoir politique, Maurice Barbier (transl.) (Paris 1980).
  • Relectio de iure belli o paz dinámica, Luciano Pereña, José Manuel Pérez Prendes a.o. (transl.) (Madrid 1981) (Corpus Hispanorum de Pace, 6).
  • Political Writings, Anthony Pagden and Jeremy Lawrance (transl.) (Cambridge, etc., 1991; reprint 1995, 2001, 2003, 2007).
  • Über die staatliche Gewalt. De potestate civili, Robert Schnepf (transl.) (Berlin 1992) - Latin and German.
  • Delgado, Luis Frayle, La ley. Francisco de Vitoria. Estudio preliminar y traduccion (Madrid 1995).
  • Relectio de Indis. La questione degli Indios, A. Lamacchia (transl.) (Bari 1996).
  • Vorlesungen I (Relectiones) : Völkerrecht-Politik-Kirche, lateinisch-deutsch, Ulrich Horst a.o. (eds.) (2 vol., Stuttgart 1995-1997).
  • Relectio on homicide and commentary on Summa Theologica IIa IIae Q. 64 (Thomas Aquinas), John P. Doyle (transl.) (Milwaukee, Wisc., 1997).
  • Hernández Martín, Ramon, Francisco de Vitoria et la "Leçon sur les Indiens", Jacques Mignon (transl.) (Paris 1997).
  • Francisco de Vitoria, Sobre el poder civil, Luis Frayle Delgado (transl.) (Madrid 1998, 2007) - De potestate civili, De indis.
  • Francisco de Vitoria, La justicia, Luis Frayle Delgado (transl.) (Madrid 2001) - De justitia.
  • Francisco de Vitoria, Sobre el matrimonio, Luis Frayle Delgado (transl.) (Salamanca 2005).
  • Kann Krieg erlaubt sein? Eine Quellensammlung zur politischen Ethik der Spanischen Spätscholastik, Heinz-Gerhard Justenhoven en Joachim Stüben (ed.) (Stuttgart 2006).

Introduction   Bibliography   Editions   Studies   Links

Studies (in chronological order) - a selection

  • Beltrán de Heredia, Vicente, Los manuscritos de Fray Francisco de Vitoria, O.P. : estudio critico de introducción a sus lecturas y relecciones (Madrid 1928).
  • Baumel, Jean, Le droit public international, la découverte de l'Amérique et les théories de Francisco de Vitoria. Étude de De indis noviter inventis (Montpellier 1931).
  • Scott, James Brown, The Spanish origin of international lawI, Francisco de Vitoria and his law of nations (Oxford-London 1934; herdruk Union, New Jersey, 2000) - with several texts by Vitoria as appendices
  • Böhm, Antonius Hendricus, Het recht van kolonisatie : Francisco de Vitoria's lessen over het recht tot koloniseeren in verband met de Spaansche kolonisatie, het optreden der pausen en het internationale recht (thesis Utrecht; Utrecht 1936).
  • Villoslada, Ricardo G.,  La Universidad de Paris durante los estudios de Francisco de Vitoria O.P.  (Rome 1938).
  • Beltrán de Heredia, Vicente, Francisco de Vitoria (Barcelona 1939).
  • Hanke, Lewis, The Spanish struggle for justice in the conquest of America (Philadelphia, Penn., 1949).
  • Pereña Vicente, Luciano, La Universidad de Salamanca, forja de pensamiento político español en el siglo XVI (Salamanca 1954).
  • Soder, Josef, Die Idee der Völkergemeinschaft. Francisco de Vitoria und die philosophischen Grundlagen des Völkerrechts (Frankfurt am Main 1955).
  • Hamilton, Bernice, Political thought in sixteenth-century Spain. A study of the political ideas of Vitoria, De Soto, Suárez and Molina (Oxford 1963).
  • Otte, Gerhard, Das Privatrecht bei Francisco de Vitoria (thesis Münster 1962, Cologne 1964).
  • Fernández-Santamaria, J.A., The state, war and peace: Spanish political thought in the Renaissance, 1516-1559 (Cambridge, etc., 1977).
  • Hernández, Carlos Lopez, Ley, evangelio y derecho canonico en Francisco de Vitoria (Salamanca 1981).
  • Pagden, Anthony, The fall of natural man : the American Indian and the origins of comparative ethnology (Cambridge, etc., 1982).
  • Hernández Martín, Ramon, Derechos humanos en Francisco de Vitoria : antologia (Salamanca 1984).
  • Ramos, Demetrio, a.o.. (eds.), La ética en la conquista de América. Francisco de Vitoria y la escuela de Salamanca (Madrid 1984) (Corpus Hispanorum de Pace, 25).
  • Truyol y Serra, António, a.o., Actualité de la pensée juridique de Francisco de Vitoria (Brussels 1988).
  • I diritti dell'uomo e la pace nel pensiero di Francisco de Vitoria e Bartolomé de las Casas : congresso internazionale tenuto alla Pontificia Università S.Tommaso (Angelicum), Roma 4-6 Marzo 1985 (Milan 1988).
  • Pereña, Luciano, and C. Baciero (eds.), Relectio de Indis: Carta Magna de los Indios. 450 aniversario 1539-1989 (Madrid 1989).
  • Deckers, Daniel, Gerechtigkeit und Recht. Eine historisch-kritische Untersuchung der Gerechtigkeitslehre des Francisco de Vitoria, (1483-1546) (Freiburg i.Br. 1991).
  • Urbano Castilla, Francisco, El pensamiento de Francisco de Vitoria : filosofía política e indio americano (Barcelona 1992).
  • Justenhoven, Heinz-Gerhard, Francisco de Vitoria zu Krieg und Frieden (Cologne 1991) – with a good bibliography.
  • Mangas Martín, Araceli (ed.), La escuela de Salamanca y el derecho internacional en América. Del pasado al futuro (Salamanca 1993).
  • Rodriguez Molinero, Marcelino, La doctrina colonial de Francisco de Vitoria o del derecho de la paz y de la guerra (Salamanca 1993).
  • Brett, Stephen F., Slavery and the catholic tradition : rights in the balance (New York 1994).
  • Ziegler, Karl-Heinz, Völkerrechtsgeschichte. Ein Studienbuch (Munich 1994).
  • Pagden, Anthony, Lords of all the world. Ideologies of empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500-1800 (New Haven, Conn.-London 1995).
  • Scott Davies, G., ‘Conscience and conquest: Francisco de Vitoria and justice in the New World’, Modern Theology 13 (1997) 475-500.
  • Tierney, Brian, The idea of natural rights : studies on natural rights, natural law and church law, 1150-1625 (Atlanta, Ga., 1997).
  • Brett, Annabel, Liberty, right and nature : individual rights in later scholastic thought (Cambridge, etc., 1997).
  • Hernández Martín, Ramon, Francisco de Vitoria et le "Leçon sur les Indes", Jacques Mignon (transl.) (Paris 1997).
  • Seelmann, Kurt, Theologie und Jurisprudenz an der Schwelle zur Moderne. Die Geburt des neuzeitlichen Naturrechts in der iberischen Spätscholastik (Baden-Baden 1997).
  • Nifterik, G.P. van, Vorst tussen volk en wet. Over volkssoevereiniteit en rechtsstatelijkheid in het werk van Fernándo Vázquez de Menchaca (1512-1569) (thesis Rotterdam; Arnhem 1999).
  • Goti Ordeñana, Juan, Del tratado de Tordesillas a la doctrina de los derechos fundamentales en Francisco de Vitoria (Valladolid 1999).
  • Ceuppens, Walter, Frans de Vitoria. Argumenten voor een humane omgang met vreemde volken (Heeswijk-Dinther 1999).
  • Grunert, Frank, and Kurt Seelmann (ed.), Die Ordnung der Praxis. Neue Studien zur Spanischen Spätscholastik (Tübingen 2001).
  • Horst, Ulrich, Die Lehrautorität des Papstes und die Dominikanertheologen der Schule von Salamanca (Berlijn 2003) - translation: The Dominicans and the pope. Papal teaching authority in the medieval and early  modern Thomist tradition (Notre Dame, Ind., 2006).
  • Orrego Sanchez, Santiago, La actualidad del ser en la 'primera escuela' de Salamanca, con lecciones inéditas de Vitoria, Soto y Cano (Pamplona 2004) -  with some editions of unpublished texts.
  • Frayle Delgado, Pensamiento humanistica de Francisco de Vitoria (Salamanca 2004).
  • Maihold, Harold, Strafe für fremde Schuld? Die Systematisierung des Strafbegriffs in der Spanischen Spätscholastik und Naturrechtslehre (Keulen 2005)
  • Diaz, Bárbara, El internacionalismo de Vitoria en la era de la globalización (Pamplona 2005).
  • Borobio, Dionisio, El sacramento de la penitencia en la Escuela de Salamanca: Francisco de Vitoria, Melchor Cano y Domingo Soto (Salamanca 2006).
  • Juan Cruz Cruz (ed.), Ley y dominio en Francisco de Vitoria (Pamplona 2008)
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