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Another Face of Empire

The Spanish cleric Bartolome de Las Casas is a key figure in the history of Spain's conquest of the Americas. Las Casas condemned the torture and murder of natives by the conquistadores in reports to the Spanish royal court and in tracts such as A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552). For his unrelenting denunciation of the colonialists' atrocities, Las Casas has been revered as a noble protector of the Indians and as a pioneering anti-imperialist. He has become a larger-than-life figure invoked by generations of anticolonialists in Europe and Latin America. Separating historical reality from myth, Daniel Castro provides a nuanced, revisionist assessment of the friar's career, writings, and political activities. Castro argues that Las Casas was very much an imperialist. Intent on converting the Indians to Christianity, the religion of the colonizers, Las Casas simply offered the natives another face of empire: a paternalistic, ecclesiastical imperialism. Castro contends that while the friar was a skilled political manipulator, influential at what was arguably the world's most powerful sixteenth-century imperial court, his advocacy on behalf of the natives had little impact on their lives. Analyzing Las Casas's extensive writings, Castro points out that in his many years in the Americas, Las Casas spent very little time among the indigenous people he professed to love, and he made virtually no effort to learn their languages. He saw himself as an emissary from a superior culture with a divine mandate to impose a set of ideas and beliefs on the colonized. He differed from his compatriots primarily in his antipathy to violence as the means for achieving conversion.
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Investigates role that Las Casas played in the evolution of Spanish imperialism and 16th century arguments about human rights, and claims that scholars have overestimated the extent to which he helped indigenous people

Table of Contents

About the Series ix Acknowledgments xi Introduction: Bartolome de Las Casas, Savior of Indoamerica? 1 1. Defining and Possessing 17 2. American Crucible 40 3. Conversions, Utopias, and Ecclesiastical Imperialism 63 4. Theory and Praxis 105 5. Toward a Restoration of the Indies 135 6. The Legacy of Las Casas 150 Conclusion 177 Notes 187 Bibliography 215 Index 229

About the Author

Daniel Castro is Associate Professor of History at Southwestern University. He is the editor of Revolution and Revolutionaries: Guerilla Movements in Latin America.


"Another Face of Empire incontrovertibly adds to general understanding of Bartolome de Las Casas. Daniel Castro persuasively argues that Las Casas contributed substantially to the establishment of Spanish imperial hegemony in the Americas in the first century after the conquests."--Franklin W. Knight, editor of Bartolome de Las Casas's An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies "Father Las Casas offered what all empires need: a sense of their own moral legitimacy. This book forthrightly unmasks the imperial gift-giver. It should be read by all colonialists and those who study human rights issues."-- Colin M. MacLachlan, John Christie Barr Distinguished Professor of History, Tulane University

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