'The School of Salamanca: A Case of Global Knowledge Production'

Publication of the second volume in the series ‘Max Planck Studies in Global Legal History of the Iberian Worlds’

March 10, 2021

The new volume published in the series Max Planck Studies in Global Legal History of the Iberian Worlds (MPIW) introduces the School of Salamanca, traditionally understood as a purely Spanish or Iberian phenomenon, as a community of normative knowledge production with a global scope and long-lasting influence.

In the introductory chapter, Thomas Duve outlines an innovative research programme looking at the School of Salamanca as a paradigmatic example of an epistemic community. He underlines the nature of the School as an epistemic community shaping itself around common knowledge, experiences and beliefs; its authors share the use of an ars inveniendi, they rely on specific methods to identify and resolve normative problems, as they take recourse to a common heritage of auctoritates and to the use of specific argumentation styles and implicit practical conventions. Approaching the Salmantine scholastic with the methods of the history of knowledge, Duve’s perspective offers an alternative to a historiography in which the history of the School of Salamanca blends into the history of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Salamanca, and in which the inventive juridical and moral-theological developments produced in the American and Asian territories of the Spanish monarchy are regarded as no more than projections, reflections or translations of doctrines and methods with a distinctly European pedigree.

Seven female und six male experts from Germany, Argentine, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, Mexico and Great Britain use the groundwork laid out in the introductory chapter as their point of departure. The eleven articles in this volume show how many individual and collective actors in the production of normative knowledge, university teachers and missionaries alike, worked not only in close contact with each other, but also in an intense intellectual dialogue with Salamanca, their institutional independence of the University of Salamanca notwithstanding. Without neglecting the continual references to the great masters such as Vitoria, Soto or Cano in the universities, tractates, councils or provincial synods (a trait already recognised by historiography and strongly emphasised in this volume), all of the chapters highlight a plurality of actors previously neglected by the historical scholarship. Rather than a mere epiphenomena of the Salmantine scholastic tradition, they were instrumental in many ways in the cultural translation of those ideas, criteria, methods and styles of argumentation that characterise the Salmantine production of normative knowledge since, at the very least, Francisco de Vitoria assumed his chair at the Faculty of Theology.

The authors focus on the universities of Mexico, Guatemala, Coimbra, Évora and the Argentine Cordoba as well as on a variety of missionary agents in Mexico and the Philippines. A number of contributions examine the multifaceted works of Alonso de la Vera Cruz as a typical example of the kind of knowledge produced by a global school of thought in which the dialogue with and continuous reference to Salamanca does not equate to a simple translation or uncritical reproduction of its ideas and intellectual foundations. This point is also underlined in the first two chapters, which critically revise the old affirmation that the first universities in the New World were mere replicas of the Salmantine model and its statutory framework.

The volume, edited by Thomas Duve, José Luis Egío and Christiane Birr, is now available in Open Access; the print version will be available in April.

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