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Class Year

2011

Abstract

A fierce advocate for the indigenous people of the New World, Bartolomé de Las Casas sought to promote awareness and enact legal change. Born in 1484, Las Casas grew up as exploration of the New World began. After embarking on several voyages to the New World, he saw firsthand the injustices committed against the natives. Years later, following a religious conversion, he began elucidating the actions of the Christians in an effort to draw awareness to the Indians plagued by the Spanish presence and to compel the Spanish Crown to take action in order to maintain its religious legitimacy in the New World. Las Casas used A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies as a medium to this end. Despite its efficacy in producing a gruesome picture of slaughter and deceit, it leaves several questions unanswered. These unanswered questions and the excessive exaggerations, call into question the facts of the Short Account. In many contexts, Las Casas highlighted the innocence and purity of the Indians and the brutality of the Spaniards in order to draw attention to the magnitude of deaths incurred by the natives. Because he failed to present an adequate analysis of the factors contributing to the natives’ deaths and failed to provide a complete description of the natives‘ actions and traditions, the legitimacy of his work must be questioned.

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