Vitoria and Us

Hosted by the Internationalism, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Solidarity research group:

  • Date and time: Wednesday 12 February 2014, 5pm-6.30pm
  • Venue: LSE campus. Details will be provided on confirmation of registration
  • Speaker: Professor Martti Koskeniemmi
  • Chair: Dr Ayça Çubukçu

Martti KoskenniemiIn this seminar, Professor Koskenniemi will discuss his essay, 'Vitoria and Us', which is an engagement in the methods and theories of history of international law. In particular, it examines the possibilities and limits of critical legal history. Is it defensible to discuss lawyers, theologians and political thinkers in the 16th or 17th centuries, for example, by reference to present concerns and concepts? Traditional histories of international law celebrated the 16th century Spanish Dominican theologian Francisco de Vitoria as a defender of the Indians and one of the “fathers” of international law. Today’s postcolonial scholars have tended to see Vitoria and his colleagues in the “School of Salamanca” as legitimizers of Spanish expansion and the destruction of Indian communities. Such images are deeply embedded in present-day concerns and sensibilities. They thus appear to violate some of the basic tenets of contextual history. The essay will argue, however, that a fully contextual history is not only impossible but undesirable. It is important to situate Vitoria in the religious, intellectual and political and context of his day. This does not, however, prevent us from judging the nature of the contribution of the “School of Salamanca” to European imperialism. In fact, it is a major purpose of a critical history of international law to examine the past in order to contribute to political debates about the way the world is today.

The Speaker

Martti Koskenniemi is a Professor of International Law and Director of the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Helsinki.

Ayça Çubukçu (chair) is Assistant Professor in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and Department of Sociology. She convenes the Internationalism, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Solidarity research group.

Coming to the event

The seminar is free to attend and open to all, but space is limited and pre-registration is required. Email to request a place.