What Happened When?

The timeline of the traditional schools of jurisprudence

AD 1500 to AD 1750

1519-1521 Hernando Cortez destroys Aztec empire
1564-1642 Galileo Galilei
1565 Establishment of permanent Spanish settlements in the New World
1571-1630 Johannes Kepler
1583-1645 Hugo Grotius
1607-1620 Establishment of permanent English settlements in the New World
1632-1704 John Locke
1711-1776 David Hume
1724-1804 Immanuel Kant
1738-1794 Cesare Beccaria
1748-1832 Jeremy Bentham

1519-1521 Following the ill-starred attempt at conquest under Grijalva, Hernando Cortes made landfall at the port of Vera Cruz. After a brief campaign against the Tlaxcalans, he advanced on Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), where he was welcomed by the Aztec ruler Montezuma. Cortes later imprisoned Montezuma and demanded a ransom, but Montezuma was killed by the Aztecs prior to the ransom being fulfilled. Cortes then proceeded to crush the Aztec regime, succeeding in 1521.

1564-1642 The Italian philosopher and mathematician Galileo Galilei is responsible for not only our laws of planetary motion (when he verified the work of Copernicus) but also a great deal of our mathematical and scientific basis today. His theories involving gravity and pendulum motion were deemed heretical by the Catholic Church, and Galileo was forced to recant. His final words, "Yet it does move," show that his recantation was untrue, and he stood by his original work.

1565 Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon established the oldest European settlement in the United States on his quest to find the legendary fountain of youth. The settlement, San Augustine, is located in modern-day Florida.

1571-1630 Johannes Kepler was a German scientist and contemporary of Galileo, whose work with the optical telescope led to a more concise theory of the laws of planetary motion. Unlike Galileo, Kepler did not come under the disapproval of the Catholic Church and was never forced to recant. His work, while often viewed as secondary to Galileo's, nevertheless forms the basis of our modern astrogation principles.

1583-1645 Hugo Grotius is rightly considered one of the greatest legal philosophers of his age. Theorizing that law adheres to innate moral principles, he led the van in moving from a divine to a secular orientation of the law. He is also recognized as possibly the foremost expert on international law of his time.

1607-1620 With the establishment of Jamestown (in modern-day Virginia) and later the establishment of Plymouth Colony, the English presence in the New World was formalized. Earlier colonization attempts (notably Roanoke Island) had resulted in failure, but by 1620, the English had arrived.

1632-1704 John Locke is best known for his defense of human rights, which he believed to be inseparable from all humanity. His words from the landmark Essay Concerning Human Understanding are worthy of no little note, since they form the school of thought which spawned the Declaration of Independence some seventy years after his death.

1711-1776 David Hume's philosophical writings are noteworthy, not for what they propose, but for their influence over certain other prominent thinkers of the time. Hume is widely recognized to have been the catalyst for such philosophers as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.

1724-1804 Immanuel Kant's writings on the concepts of Natural Law form one of the final historical defenses of this powerful school. Modern philosophers still find support in Kant's epic, Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, and his theories have been used as recently as 1945, when they formed the basis of the charges which were leveled at the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg.

1738-1794 Cesare Beccaria was an Italian nobleman and philosopher whose Essay on Crimes and Punishments is perhaps the only work of note that he produced. Of a shy and retiring nature, he feared the reception of the paper and published it anonymously. Only after it met with signal success did he venture to claim it.

1748-1832 Jeremy Bentham is well-regarded as one of the shining stars in two firmaments. Although prinicpally a promoter of Utilitarianism, his works were adapted by his student John Austin into the doctrine of Legal Positivism. He is conidered to be a founding member of both schools.


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This page last updated on 3 May 2002 by John Stradling
Copyright John Stradling 2002