A leading figure in Spanish socialist thought, he was a professor of law at the University of Granada and the University of Madrid. As Minister of Education and Minister of Public Instruction, respectively, during the Republic, he wrote essays such as The Humanist Sense of Socialism (1926) and State and Church in 16th Century Spain (1927). He was a great friend of Federico García Lorca (he became his law professor and protector). The families of both would always be linked by friendship and kinship. He married Gloria Giner de los Ríos García (teacher of Geography and History at the Normal School and before that at the Free Teaching Institution), with whom he had Laura de los Ríos Giner, an inseparable friend since she was a child of Isabel García Lorca and wife of Francisco García Lorca. It was De los Ríos who convinced Federico in 1929, when the poet was immersed in a deep personal crisis, to travel with him to New York. As Minister of the Republic, he promoted the creation of the theater company La Barraca of which García Lorca and Eduardo Ugarte were directors.
In June 1929, Fernando de los Ríos went to New York for a year-long stay. He was accompanied on this trip by Federico García Lorca. De los Ríos had to convince the poet’s father to let him travel to America with the excuse of enrolling at Columbia University and learning English.
He was born in Ronda. He was soon orphaned. He studied in Cordoba and then in Madrid, where he was educated at the Free Teaching Institution, directed by Francisco Giner de los Ríos, a relative of his. With a scholarship from the Committee for Extension of Studies, he traveled to Germany, where he continued to develop his thinking. He taught at the same institution until 1911 when he obtained the chair of Law at the University of Granada, where he taught Federico García Lorca. In Granada, he exercised a profound influence. He was director of the Performing Arts Center in one of its most brilliant periods.
In 1918, he joined the Socialist Party, always representing a moderate and humanist line. His work as a lecturer brought him popularity and prestige, and in 1919 he obtained his first seat as a member of the Spanish parliament. After Primo de Rivera’s coup d’état in 1923, he resigned his professorship.
He became Minister of Justice of the Republic and in December 1931 he moved to the Ministry of Public Instruction where he undertook an extensive program to create public schools. He also founded the International University of Santander.
In June 1929, Fernando de los Ríos went to New York for a one-year stay. He was accompanied on this trip by Federico García Lorca. De los Ríos had to convince the poet’s father to let him travel to America with the excuse of enrolling at Columbia University and learning English. Federico was then going through a personal and literary crisis caused by the contradictory success of Gypsy Ballads and the sentimental break-up with Emilio Aladrén. From this journey, from this change of scenery arose Poet in New York.
On April 14, 1931, after the proclamation of the Republic, he became Minister of Justice (he had previously been imprisoned after the failure of the Republican pronouncement of Jaca in 1930, led by the captains Fermín Galán and Ángel García Hernández). In December 1931, he moved to the Ministry of Public Instruction where he undertook an extensive program of public school building. He also founded the International University of Santander. The outbreak of the Civil War surprised him in Geneva. From there he quickly moved to Paris to reorganize the embassy. He then held the same diplomatic post in the United States until the end of the war. Thereafter, he taught at the New School for Social Research in New York, where he lived until his death. He was part of the government in exile. He died on May 31, 1949.