Orlando Bentancor's insightful study of the theories that underwrote the Spanish conquest makes a compelling contribution to imperial historiography. The central thesis, defended with close readings of five canonical writers (Francisco de Vitoria, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Bartolomé de Las Casas, José de Acosta, and Juan de Solórzano Pereira) and one of the most influential viceroys of Peru (Francisco de Toledo), is that works of natural law and natural philosophy must be read together if we are to fully understand how sixteenth-century writers justified the competing aims of empire: the production of wealth (silver mining) and the salvation of indigenous souls (many of whom died in the mines). As Spain's “transnational capitalist enterprise” revealed the inadequacies of existing papal authority, apologists used reason and natural law, not grace and faith, to justify this new order (p. 41).

Natural law and mining literatures...

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