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A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies[2] (Spanish: Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias) is an account written by the Spanish Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas in 1542 (published in 1552) about the mistreatment of and atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of the Americas in colonial times and sent to then Prince Philip II of Spain.[1]

A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies
Bartolomé de las Casas (1552) Brevisima relación de la destrucción de las Indias.png
Cover of the Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias
Author Bartolomé de las Casas
Original title Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias
Country Spanish Empire
Language Spanish
Publication date
1552[1]

Contents

BackgroundEdit

Bartolomé de las Casas explains in the prologue that his fifty years of experience in Spanish colonies in Indies had granted him both moral legitimacy and accountability for writing this account.[3] In 1516, Las Casas was granted the title of Protector of the Indians by Cardinal Cisneros after submitted report on how severe the demographic decline had been due to harsh labor and mistreatment by colonial officials.[4] During the time when Las Casas served as the Protector of the Indians, several clerics from The Order of Saint Jerome attempted reform certain labor systems which incorporated native populace as labor forces. Their attempts, however, were deemed not effective enough to protect the welfare of the Indians by Las Casas, thus motivating him to return to Spain to appeal to the Spanish monarch in 1517.[5]

From 1517 to 1540, Las Casas repeatedly traveled back and forth between Spain and Spanish colonies in Latin America for numerous times, struggling to find a common ground between Spanish authorities and his own humanitarian pursuit regarding the improvement of the conditions of Indian subjects in Spanish dominions. [6] One of many purposes of his travels was to continue to protest Spanish colonial mistreatment of Indians.

In 1542, after Las Casas first composed the account for which would be later known as A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, he presented the account as a proof of atrocities committed upon Indians by colonial authorities before the members of the Council of the Indies during the hearings on resolving issues of forceful conversion and colonial exploitation of Indians held under the order sanctioned by Charles I of Spain.[7]

De Las Casas was one of the first advocates for the indigenous people.[8] The book was published when De Las Casas was sixty-seven years old.[8] A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is one of many books by De Las Casas that shows that he was highly persuasive and respected by the Spanish court.[9] A Short Account was one of the most influential sources used to attempt to improve colonial conditions for the indigenous people.[8] The book was also one of the first texts that revealed the devastation of Old World diseases in the New World.[9]

This book has been critiqued for centuries for its reliability about the treatment of the indigenous people and the number of indigenous people who died as a result of the mistreatment by the Spanish conquistadors.[8] This book was written to persuade the Spanish King to act in response to the Spanish conquistadors abuse on the indigenous population.[9] As a primarily persuasive text, many critics argue that facts and figures about the mistreatment and death toll were exaggerated, making the text largely unreliable.[8]

ContentsEdit

It was written for Charles I of Spain.[1] Las Casas appeals to the King's pathos throughout his account by describing Charles I[1] as a lover, culitvator and as a man of justice.[10] One of the stated purposes for writing the account is his fear of Spain coming under divine punishment and his concern for the souls of the Native peoples.[citation needed] The account is one of the first attempts by a Spanish writer of the colonial era to depict examples of unfair treatment that indigenous people endured in the early stages of the Spanish conquest of the Greater Antilles, particularly the island of Hispaniola.[citation needed] Las Casas's point of view can be described as being heavily against some of the Spanish methods of colonization, which, as he describes, inflicted a great loss on the indigenous occupants of the islands. He described extensive use of torture, murder, and mutilation against the Natives by the Spaniards.

LegacyEdit

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is a book that marks a significant moment in the way 21st century colonial Latin American historians would address world history.[8] De Las Casas used the term “New World” to look at the Americas and Western hemisphere and did not use the term or idea of the “ancient world” as a way to describe the Spain, Europe and the Eastern hemisphere.[8] This linguistic shift marked a transition in historical text and thought by moving away from the medieval view of geography and world history to a more modern view.[8] De Las Casas addressed the new population in the Americas and introduced it in a political way in addressing the Spanish King.[8] De Las Casas introduced and presented the people of the Americas in the context of the Spanish empire.[8]

De Las Casas is also noted as one of the first writers and thinkers to racialize the indigenous people of the Americas.[8] In his attempt to defend the indigenous people, he argues that they are part of the human race by describing their bodies, skin color, language and culture.[8] In A Short Account, De Las Casas racialized the indigenous people and created a new understanding for them in the context and hierarchy of European ideas of race.[8]

His account was largely responsible for the passage of the new Spanish colonial laws known as the New Laws of 1542, which abolished native slavery for the first time in European colonial history and led to the Valladolid debate.[citation needed] This text was used as a way to convince the King of Spain of the cruelties caused by the Spanish Conquistadors.[9] Thus, he did not focus or mention the effects of disease as a cause of suffering for the native people.[9] Instead, De Las Casas focused on the suffering caused by the Spanish conquistadors so that the King would address the conquistador’s behavior.[9]

It was republished in 1620, by Jan Evertszoon Cloppenburch, alongside the book Origin and progress of the disturbances in the Netherlands by Dutch historian Johannes Gysius.[1] The book was frequently reprinted, alone or in combination with other works, in the Netherlands and in other countries struggling against the power of Spain in Europe and the Americas.[11] The images described by Las Casas were later depicted by Theodor de Bry in copper plate engravings that helped expand the Black Legend against Spain.

ReliabilityEdit

The purpose of A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies was to convince the King of Spain to take action on the mistreatment of the indigenous people of the Americas.[9] To make this point, De Las Casas has been accused by many scholars about making exaggerated claims in terms of the death toll and mistreatment of the indigenous people.[9] De Las Casas also did not mention the number of indigenous deaths caused by Old World disease.[9] This important detail was intentionally left out of A Short Account because De Las Casas wanted to make the Spanish conquistador’s abuse of the indigenous people the main cause of indigenous suffering and death.[9]

Today, it is well known that Old World diseases caused a large number of indigenous deaths.[9] Thus, De Las Casas’s exaggerated claims and his intent to leave out important historical details has critized by many scholars.[8] It is important to look at A Short Account as an important rhetorical book instead only looking at it for its historical and scientific reliability.[8]

Rhetorical StrategyEdit

 A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is a book that is acclaimed by scholars for its rhetorical effect.[8] De Las Casas juxtaposes the inhumane mistreatment of the Spanish conquistadors with the inherent goodness of the indigenous people in an exaggerated manner in his strategy of persuasion.[8] His text largely uses an emotionally persuasive argument instead of a logical argument in A Short Account in his effort to convince the King of Spain.[8] De Las Casas revised and re-edited this book in order to make his best argument in favor of the indigenous people. [8]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Mirror of the Cruel and Horrible Spanish Tyranny Perpetrated in the Netherlands, by the Tyrant, the Duke of Alba, and Other Commanders of King Philip II". World Digital Library. 1620. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  2. ^ Also translated and published in English as A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, among several other variants.
  3. ^ "CASAS: A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE INDIES". www.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  4. ^ Bayle, Constantino (1945). El protector de indios. Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos. pp. 12–13. 
  5. ^ Wagner; Parish, Henry Raup; Helen Rand (1967). The Life and Writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 109–13. 
  6. ^ "CASAS: A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE INDIES". www.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  7. ^ Wagner; Parish, Henry Raup; Helen Rand (1967). The Life and Writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 109–13. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s von Vacano, Diego (2012-01-01). "LAS CASAS AND THE BIRTH OF RACE". History of Political Thought. 33 (3): 401–426. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Joralemon, Donald (Spring 1982). "New World Depopulation and the Case of Disease". Journal of Anthropological Research. 38: 108. JSTOR 3629951. 
  10. ^ 1484-1566., Casas, Bartolomé de las, (1992). A short account of the destruction of the Indies. Griffin, Nigel. (1st ed.). London, England: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140445626. OCLC 26198156. 
  11. ^ "Mirror of the Cruel and Horrible Spanish Tyranny Perpetrated in the Netherlands, by the Tyrant, the Duke of Alba, and Other Commanders of King Philip II". www.wdl.org. 1620-01-01. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 

External linksEdit