Early Modern Controversies of Mobility within the Spanish Empire: Francisco de Vitoria and the Peaceful Right to Travel

Beatriz Salamanca


In his public lecture ‘On the American Indians’ given at the University of Salamanca in 1538-39, Francisco de Vitoria presented an unsettling defense of freedom of movement, arguing that the Spanish had the right to travel and dwell in the New World, since it was considered part of the law of nations [ius gentium] that men enjoyed free mutual intercourse anywhere they went. This argument has been seen on multiple occasions as a justification of the expansion of the Spanish empire. However, this research claims that the right to travel advocated by Vitoria was not intended to be interpreted in absolute terms, for it had to serve the purpose of bringing peace and unity among men, and could not contradict natural law. Vitoria’s legacy is of enormous value as it initiated a long lasting discussion regarding the question of the grounds under which human mobility could be restricted.

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DOi: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.061


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