This article focuses on the development of anglophone perpectives on Las Casas and “his contexts”. For a more general article on Las Casas see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Casas. (This stub was a Minkapedia run-on from the lead in Minkanews 8/11/07)
Las Casas in 1689 Edit
A year after the English “Bloodless Revolution” and the accession of William III and Mary marked the confirmation of protestant supremacy in England, the Brevisima relación de la destrucción de las Indias by Las Casas appeared in its 1689 English translation. It had originally been published in Seville in 1552.
Although its archaic spelling and punctuation makes it difficult to access today, a flavour of how it was presented to the English readership can be obtained from the first page below (note: this page obviously was not part of the editions in Spanish). The complete work is available from the Gutenberg project: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20321/20321-8.txt
Truly Display'd in its
Or, a faithful
Horrid and Unexampled Massacres, Butcheries, and all manner of
Cruelties, that Hell and Malice could invent, committed by the Popish
Spanish Party on the inhabitants of West-India
With the Devastations of several Kingdoms in America by Fire and
Sword, for the space of Forty and Two Years, from the time of its first
Discovery by them.
Composed first in Spanish by Bartholomew de las Casas, a Bishop there,
and Eye-Witness of most of these Barbarous Cruelties; afterward Translated
by him into Latin, then by other hands, into High-Dutch, Low-Dutch,
French, and now Taught to Speak Modern English.
London, Printed for R. Hewson at the _Crown in Cornhil,near the Stocks-Market. 1689.
In the anglophone world, the work was used as evidence about atrocities in Spanish administration of the Americas (the Indies),and was instrumental in the rise to the "Black Legend".
Challenge to the Black Legend Edit
Lewis Hanke and others. Writing from the 1930's Lewis Hanke and others challenged the then received wisdom concerning injustices, corruption and decadence in the Spanish colonies - particularly with regard to the brutal treatment of the Native Americans.
Hanke, Lewis. Pope Paul III and the American Indians. The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Apr., 1937), pp. 65-102.
La lucha por la justicia en la conquista de América. L Hanke - Buenos Aires, 1949 - sibese.conare.ac.cr.
Las Casas during the twentieth centuryEdit
Las Casas at Canning House Edit
Brief notes regarding the Bartolomé de las Casas evening at Canning House, 2 Belgrave Square, London SW1.
Three for the price of one has now come to Canning House (1/11/07). A superb triple bill to kick off the month of November brought us Marcus Whitfield's Las Casas: defender of the Indians in a Time of Conquest. The introduction by celebrated TV producer Michael Wood (not there in person) provided the link to the prior viewing of his BBC film "Conquistadors". Another link was a talk by Cambridge historian, David Brading, who achieved the near impossible: compressing Las Casas into twenty minutes with an emphasis on the key period 1537 to1550. This took us from the Papal Bull of that initial year, which interpreted that "Indians are true men and should be converted" to Christianity, to the famous debates in Valladolid of 1550 between Bartolomé de las Casas (defending the rights of the Native Americans) and Gines Sepúlveda (arguing from an Aristotelian viewpoint) - see following note. A three-course feast for free force edutainment: something wonderful is happening in Canning House Talks and Education. We of course needed an evening for each part of the trilogy. But that was not the point, which was to have three media (film, talk and theatre) focusing on one theme - las Casas - within one session. Bravo Canning House, Marcus Whitfield and the "wonderful Irish cast of actors", David Brading, Samuel Fernandez and Michael Wood (& the BBC team).
Note: David Brading has written extensively Edit
David Brading has written extensively on Las Casas and Mexico and the few moments alloted can only give us a lead-in to his work. For one example: "Para dar unidad a su postura, David A. Brading reconoce una característica particular del pasado mexicano: “La historia antigua de México empieza en mito [el de la fundación de Tenochtitlan] y termina en profecía [el retorno de Quetzalcóatl]”. Estos elementos fundadores y esperanzadores son rastreados por el investigador en diversos momentos de la historia mexicana; mito y profecía tienen una presencia recurrente en la historia nacional. Brading analiza cómo Fray Bartolomé de las Casas tuvo que luchar contra dos mitos que amenazaban establecerse tras la conquista de México: el primero era un aura de gloria que comenzaba a envolver la figura de los conquistadores para convertirlos en héroes. La segunda amenaza era la de considerar a los indios como esclavos por naturaleza, ignorantes salvajes condenados por su incapacidad para comprender y acoger la fe de sus conquistadores. Así, el autor recorre en su primer capítulo las primeras crónicas y las apreciaciones incluso contradictorias de sus autores, y los antecedentes de las ideas humanistas que fray Bartolomé de las Casas usara en su constante y apasionada lucha por defender los derechos indígenas y, en especial, la influencia que La ciudad de Dios, de San Agustín, tuvo en el desarrollo de su pensamiento." Source: http://www.fondodeculturaeconomica.com/subdirectorios_site/Lecturas/LEC-003542R.pdf For an idea of the extent of David Brading's work see: http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=David+Brading&hl=en&lr=&start=10&sa=N