Historia natural y moral de las Indias, José de Acosta

In 1590, half a century after the founding of Lima, the monumental work of Father José de Acosta was published in Seville: Historia natural y moral de las Indias. This publication was not exempt from controversy from the accusation of plagiarism to Father Juan de Tovar, author of the First Relation of the Indians of Mexico (1576), today, thanks to the indefatigable work of many researchers, no one doubts or questions the authenticity of Father Acosta’s volume.

The importance of this work could be seen from the first years of its publication through the translations it had: 1590 was translated into Latin, 1596 was translated into Italian, 1598 was translated into French, Dutch and German , the year 1604 was translated into English. It also has a very large number of editions and a plethora of renowned scholars.

The content of the Historia natural y moral de las Indias allows for research of various kinds: historical, anthropological, aesthetic, literary, linguistic and even theological and philosophical studies. In this sense, the philosophical perspective developed by Father Acosta reflects a solvent management of sources of Aristotelian and scholastic philosophy; Neoplatonic sources and Renaissance philosophers, as well as many ideas from the Second Salamanca scholastic led by the great philosopher and theologian Francisco Suarez, Doctor Eximio.

As a brief example is the discussion about the possibility of speaking about God in indigenous language, due to the probable absence of a word that condemns the philosophical concept of Being, an important term for both philosophy and theology. Many pages of this book develop this debate and show that evangelization in the Peruvian viceroyalty needed a complex discursive network where the old philosophical concepts had to be renewed and new concepts had to be incorporated.

According to this framework, it remains to the reader’s and researcher’s availability this marvelous work which, after more than three centuries of publication, continues to captivate scholars of the still virginal and fecund ground of viceroyal philosophy.


J. Christian Egoavil

Universidad del Pacífico

Proyecto Estudios Indianos


Digital Resources

Author and his Work

José de Acosta’s Biography (Encyclopædia Britannica)

The Author and the Editions of his Work (Simón Valcárcel)

Chronicles of the Indies

Comparative study on the natural histories of the s. XVI (María de la Luz Ayala)

His role as chronicler of the Indies (Francis Ivanhoe)

The Scientific Tradition (Geography & Biology)

Humanism & Science (María Luisa Rivara de Tuesta)

Precursors of the Darwinian paradigm (Leandro Sequeiros)

Libros de José de Acosta