Three Moments in the History of the Ius Gentium (1500-1700)

An Essay on the Evolution of the Right of Peoples


At the foundation of international law lies the notion of ius gentium or right of peoples, an idea that fully came into its own with the discovery of America and the effort to resolve the moral issues posed by the Spanish presence. Once Vitoria broadened the Augustinian concept of an international community by proposing the use of reason as the only criterion for membership in that community, it remained to formulate the laws needed to impose order on it. But before accomplishing that task, two questions must be accounted for: what is the nature of the ius gentium, and what is its relation to ius naturale? How theologians, philosophers, jurists sought the answers between 1500 and 1700 is the subject of this essay.

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J.A.Fernández-Santamaríais a retired professor of history with a Ph.D. (1970) from Indiana University. His latest published book is La guerra en el pensamiento político y jurídico de Occidente (1500-1700), (Madrid, Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, 2018).


The Background: The Fathers
 1 St. Augustine

 2 St. Thomas

part 1
The Theologians’ Moment
1The American Question
 1 The Indians and their Commonwealths

 2 Vitoria’s De potestate civile

 3 Commentaries

2Soto: Subjective Natural Right
 1 Life

 2 The Law

 3 Natural Law

 4 Precepts and Principles

 5 Dominium

 6 The Right of Peoples

part 2
The Philosophers’ Moment
3The Philosophy of Order: Suárez
 1 Introduction

 2 Reason or Will?

 3 Natural Right

 4 The ius gentium

 5 The Origin of the Right of Peoples

 6 Civil Society

 7 The Political Pact

4The Making of a Ius Belli: Grotius
 1 Life

 2 The Case for the Will

 3 Natural Right

 4 Political Ideas

 5 If God did not Exist

 6 The Nature of Natural Right

 7 The Right of Peoples

 8 The Law of War

part 3
The Jurists’ Moment
5The Early Jurists
 1 Diego de Covarrubias

 2 Baltasar Ayala

 3 Alberico Gentili

6The Making of an International Authority: Rachel
 1 The Characteristics of Natural Right

 2 Divine Providence

 3 A Scientific System of Natural Right

 4 The Right of Peoples

 5 The Case for a ius gentium

7Natural Right, Reign without Rule: Textor
 1 The General Notion of ius gentium

 2 The Division of the ius gentium

 3 Civil Society

 4 The Right to Resist

 5 War

The Philosophy of Chaos: Hobbes


Index of Persons

Index of Subjects

Scholars and graduate students interested in the history of law and political thought in Early Modern Europe.
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