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International Law and EmpireHistorical Explorations$
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Martti Koskenniemi, Walter Rech, and Manuel Jiménez Fonseca

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795575

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795575.001.0001

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Jus gentium and the Transformation of Latin American Nature: One More Reading of Vitoria?

Jus gentium and the Transformation of Latin American Nature: One More Reading of Vitoria?

Chapter:
(p.123) 6 Jus gentium and the Transformation of Latin American Nature: One More Reading of Vitoria?
Source:
International Law and Empire
Author(s):

Manuel Jiménez Fonseca

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795575.003.0007

Critical histories of international law have underlined Francisco Vitoria’s elaboration of jus gentium in order to legitimize Spanish power over Latin American pre-colonial populations. But Spanish conquest also entailed a process of appropriation of natural resources that fed increasingly interconnected inter-continental markets. Jus gentium buttressed the economic institutions—private property and trade—that allowed privatizing and commodifying Latin American ecosystems, thus legalizing the extraction and production of lucrative commodities which resulted in localized environmental exploitation. This process run parallel to the introduction of a particular Catholic conception of the relationship between humans and nature through the evangelizing mission. Ideas of human superiority over nature fit well with an economic ethos whereby the exploitation of nature produced increasing wealth and power. This article provides an exploration of the early historical contours of the legitimization of a universalizing project of environmental transformation launched from Europe that would eventually affect the whole Earth.

Keywords:   Vitoria, jus gentium, nature, private property, trade, exploitation

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