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CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas


Las Casas
Jay I. Kislak Foundation
Bartholomé de Las Casas,
Brevissima relación de la destruycion de las Indias [nine tracts on the Indies].

Seville: Sebastian Trugillo, 1552-1553.

In 1550, Las Casas took a leading part in Spanish royal inquiries into the treatment of the Indians in the New World. In response to assertions by the Spanish Bishop Sepúlveda that the Indians were less than human and therefore fit to be slaves of the Spanish, Las Casas prepared nine essays, eight of which were published in 1552 and the ninth in 1553. The Dominican was keenly aware of the power of the printed word, so much so that he ignored the need to secure royal permission before publishing these treatises. With their wide ranging indictment of Spanish atrocities, they exploded onto the European scene. Las Casas became Spain's witness against itself.

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