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Research Project | Department II

Comparing Solórzano from Within

Juan de Solórzano Pereira and the Process of Adaptation of the Disputationes de Indiarum Iure (1629-1639) into the Política Indiana (1648)

The life and work of the Spanish jurist Juan de Solórzano Pereira (*1575, †1655) are intrinsically connected to the legal history of Spanish America. By analysing the two central works of Solórzano, together with eventual changes taking place in the Spanish Empire in the time between their publications, Comparing Solórzano from Within aims at studying the on-going development process of legal practices in Ibero-America. Chronologically, Solórzano’s work has being widely quoted and referred to from the early stages of its publication (in 1629) to well into the current on-going debate about the concept of Derecho indiano. Geographically, Solórzano performed his professional and political activities within a global empire and in an era full of complex encounters with different kinds of “otherness” (something that echoes what is currently happening in Western worlds). If on the one hand, his work refers to regions (e.g. Philippines) not immediately identifiable with contemporary Latin America, on the other hand, the pivoting role of Iberian experiences in the Americas had an important role in how peoples from other European regions took part in the early modern global encounter. The relevance of such (Iberian) experiences for understanding other (European) experiences in the early modern global scenario is undeniable and may be useful in developing more effective practices with regard to what is happening nowadays.

Ranging from defining him as “an unavoidable” author in studying the Legal History of Ibero-America (J.M. García Marín, La justicia del Rey, 2011, p. 99) to the need to read his works – in plural – for anyone who wants to study the “theoretical problems of the empire” (L. Hanke, La lucha por la justicia, 1988, p. 391), Solórzano is ubiquitous in scholarly works dealing with European and transatlantic worlds in the global scenario. Scholars resort to his work for their assessment of questions concerning the past of Spanish America and that of Atlantic Worlds. Yet, a thorough assessment of the corpus of jurisprudence he produced – which comprises several works – has hitherto been neglected. Scholars’ efforts to engage with this jurist’s doctrine has usually focussed on the Spanish treatise Política Indiana leaving the Latin treatises as a distant reference in the background.

<p>Labyrinth inscribed with Solórzano’s name, Juan de Solórzano Pereira, <em>Tomus alter de Indiarum Iure, sive de iusta Indiarum Occidentalium gubernatione</em> (Madrid, 1639)</p> Zoom Image

Labyrinth inscribed with Solórzano’s name, Juan de Solórzano Pereira, Tomus alter de Indiarum Iure, sive de iusta Indiarum Occidentalium gubernatione (Madrid, 1639)


Comparing Solórzano from Within aims at changing this situation by consistently comparing the second volume of the Disputationes de Indiarum Iure, the Tomus alter de Indiarum Iure, sive de iusta Indiarum Occidentalium gubernatione (also known as De Gubernatione, published in 1639), with the Política Indiana (published in 1648). In bringing the two treatises into an ideal dialogue, Comparing Solórzano from Within relates concepts and ideas, references to legal and customary systems, approaches to the novelty of New World challenges, and language structures. As such, it aims at assessing whether there were doctrinal changes (or not) from the Latin treatise to the Spanish one, the political changes taking place in the European and global scenarios, or the on-going negotiation process surrounding the Derecho indiano.

How did internal changes within the Spanish Empire affect Solórzano’s views and to what extent? What about the external changes taking place among Spain’s increasing number of foes in Europe and beyond? What about the Papal censure of the Latin treatise (decreed in 1642) and its eventual repercussions on the writing of the Política Indiana? How come the latter never caught the attention of the Curia? Did Solórzano accommodate sensitive topics (e.g. Royal Patronage, role of Creoles within the empire) in any different ways when revising his work for the Spanish version? How would the author’s bilingualism in Latin and Spanish have affected his ways to present core aspects of the law of/for the Americas? What kinds of reading and circulation did his two works enjoy in the global scenario and beyond the Spanish Empire? To what extent was his doctrine ‘put into use’ within different political contexts and agendas from the late 17th into the 21st century?

These are some of the questions on which the project Comparing Solórzano from Within seeks to shed new light. In doing this, the project will implement a multidisciplinary approach integrating the close reading of the texts with digital tools and methodologies. Thorough interpretation of Solórzano’s ‘translation’ from Latin into Spanish will be complemented with algorithmic analyses in order to enrich our overview of the two treatises. Methodological approaches coming from the fields of Digital Humanities and Sociolinguistics will be taken into account in order to tackle specific aspects of Solórzano’s ideas and the ways in which these may have (or may have not) changed when expressed in Spanish. Within the framework of research conducted at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, the project will develop both a diachronic and a synchronic approach in order to reassess this jurist’s contribution to the history of legal practices in the global scenario.

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