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Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili on the Juridical Status of Native American Polities

  • Daragh Grant (a1)

Abstract

Over the course of the sixteenth century, Europeans writing about the ius gentium went from treating indigenous American rulers as the juridical equals of Europe's princes to depicting them as little more than savage brutes, incapable of bearing dominium and ineligible for the protections of the law of peoples. This essay examines the writings of Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili to show how this transformation in European perceptions of Native Americans resulted from fundamental changes in European society. The emergence of a novel conception of sovereignty amid the upheavals of the Protestant Reformation was central to this shift and provided a new foundation for Europe's continued imperial expansion into the Americas.

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Footnotes

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For helpful comments on this paper I am grateful to the participants in the Political Theory Workshop at the University of Chicago, as well as to Cliff Ando, Paul Cheney, Julie Cooper, Oliver Cussen, Christopher Dunlap, Michael Gilsenan, Andreas Glaeser, Rohit Goel, Sarah Johnson, David Lebow, Karuna Mantena, Patchen Markell, Pablo Maurette, Sankar Muthu, Jonathan Obert, Jennifer Pitts, Becky Ploof, Sayres Rudy, Céline Spector, Larry Svabek, Don Tontiplaphol, Lisa Wedeen, and the anonymous reviewers at Renaissance Quarterly.

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Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili on the Juridical Status of Native American Polities

  • Daragh Grant (a1)

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