Table of Contents

Bartolomé de las Casas and the Conquest of the Americas

Viewpoints/Puntos de Vista

Themes and Interpretations in Latin American History

Series editor: Jürgen Buchenau

The books in this series will introduce students to the most significant themes and topics in Latin American history. They represent a novel approach to designing supplementary texts for this growing market. Intended as supplementary textbooks, the books will also discuss the ways in which historians have interpreted these themes and topics, thus demonstrating to students that our understanding of our past is constantly changing, through the emergence of new sources, methodologies, and historical theories. Unlike monographs, the books in this series will be broad in scope and written in a style accessible to undergraduates.


A History of the Cuban Revolution

Aviva Chomsky

Bartolomé de las Casas and the Conquest of the Americas

Lawrence A. Clayton

Mexican Immigration to the United States

Timothy J. Henderson

In preparation

The Last Caudillo: Alvaro Obregón and the Mexican Revolution

Jürgen Buchenau

Creoles vs. Peninsulars in Colonial Spanish America

Mark Burkholder

Dictatorship in South America

Jerry Davila

Mexico Since 1940: The Unscripted Revolution

Stephen E. Lewis

The Haitian Revolution, 1791–1804

Jeremy Popkin

Title page

This volume is dedicated to the memory of Bartolomé de las Casas and the Taino peoples of the Caribbean, whose suffering led to his life’s calling as protector of American Indians.

List of Illustrations


Map 1.1 The Iberian peninsula.

Map 1.2 The Indies of Bartolomé de las Casas.

Map 3.1 Las Casas’s tremendous grant of territory, Tierra Firme.

Map 4.1 The Route of the Conquistadors into Peru.


Figure 1.1 Painting (detail) from 1882: Boabdil confronted by Ferdinand and Isabel after the Fall of Granada, 1492.

Figure 2.1 The Black Legend in graphics.

Figure 2.2 Statue of Antonio de Montesinos, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He delivered the sermon in the Christmas season, 1511, that struck the first chord for human rights in the Americas.

Available at: .

Figure 2.3 Father Pedro de Córdoba.

Figure 3.1 “The Tlascalans suing for peace with Cortés.”

Figure 3.2 Pope Adrian VI, 1522–523.

Figure 4.1 Clemente Guido and statue to Indians resisting oppression, Old Leon, Nicaragua, July, 2004.

Figure 5.1 The cover of the famous New Laws of 1542 that propelled Las Casas to the forefront of the battle for control of the Amerindians.

Figure 5.2 Father Martin de Ayala instructs Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, a native Peruvian Amerindian, and his parents in the Christian faith.

Figure 6.1 Original painting of Las Casas.

Series Editor’s Preface

Each book in the “Viewpoints/Puntos de Vista” series introduces students to a significant theme or topic in Latin American history. In an age in which student and faculty interest in the developing world increasingly challenges the old focus on the history of Europe and North America, Latin American history has assumed an increasingly prominent position in undergraduate curricula.

Some of these books discuss the ways in which historians have interpreted these themes and topics, thus demonstrating that our understanding of our past is constantly changing, through the emergence of new sources, methodologies, and historical theories. Others offer an introduction to a particular theme by means of a case study or biography in a manner easily understood by the contemporary, non-specialist reader. Yet others give an overview of a major theme that might serve as the foundation of an upper-level course.

What is common to all of these books is their goal of historical synthesis by drawing on the insights of generations of scholarship on the most enduring and fascinating issues in Latin American history, and through the use of primary sources as appropriate. Each book is written by a specialist in Latin American history who is concerned with undergraduate teaching, yet who has also made his or her mark as a first-rate scholar.

The books in this series can be used in a variety of ways, recognizing the differences in teaching conditions at small liberal arts colleges, large public universities, and research-oriented institutions with doctoral programs. Faculty have particular needs depending on whether they teach large lectures with discussion sections, small lecture or discussion-oriented classes, or large lectures with no discussion sections, and whether they teach on a semester or trimester system. The format adopted for this series fits all of these different parameters.

This volume is one of the two inaugural books in the “Viewpoints/Puntos de Vista” series. In Bartolomé de las Casas and the Conquest of the Americas, Larry Clayton recounts the life and times of a Spaniard who arrived in the New World with his father in the early days of colonization and conquest. After he witnessed firsthand the cruelty of colonialism as the owner of an encomienda, Las Casas abandoned his worldly career for a calling as a Dominican friar. He became the most vociferous critic of Spanish abuses in the New World, and particularly the practice of enslavement of the indigenous population. Based on Las Casas’s own writings and a close reading of the historical literature, Clayton provides a sympathetic yet trenchant biography that serves as an entry into the larger issues of colonialism, slavery, indigenous resistance, and the early colonial debate about human rights in Latin America.

Jurgen Buchenau

University of North Carolina, Charlotte


While researching and writing this work, I have been helped by many friends and colleagues and institutions, none of whom are in any way responsible for errors in fact or judgment that may have survived in this small book in spite of their good efforts. Institutionally, the University of Alabama provided me with two sabbaticals, one in 1998 and one in 2005, without which I could not have initiated or completed this study. The Pew Evangelical Scholars Program (now discontinued) supported me in a full year of research in 1999–2000 that was indispensable.

Individually, many of my colleagues and students at the University of Alabama were supportive and helpful, reading portions of the manuscript, answering questions on recondite corners of history, always encouraging me. Among those are Tony Clark (now at Whitworth University), Maarten Ultee (emeritus), Jimmy Mixson, Dave Michelson, Steve Bunker, George McClure, Michael Mendle, James Knight, Steve Newton, and especially Helen Delpar for reading and commenting on the entire manuscript.

Others across the Atlantic world whom I have leaned on for comments, advice, and support are John L. Schwaller, Salvador Larrúa Guedes, G. Douglas Inglis, Lynne Guitar, Jesús Rodríguez, S.J., Stafford Poole, C.M., Eyda M. Merediz, Daniel Castro, and Santa Arias.

At Wiley-Blackwell, my editor and his assistant, Peter Coveney and Galen Smith, were immensely supportive and I thank them for their enthusiasm, both professional and personal. Thanks to Jane Taylor, picture researcher in the UK, who helped us track down such esoterica as permissions from dead art collectors and reclusive friars.

Jürgen Buchenau, the general editor of the series, at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and I first exchanged some ideas on this book at a meeting of the South Eastern Council on Latin American Studies (SECOLAS) in Ybor City, Tampa, one beautiful spring day in 2008.

Jürgen encouraged me to join him as he planned this series Viewpoints. We agreed that there was no more seminal—or controversial—figure than Bartolomé de Las Casas in early Latin American history and he was the perfect vehicle for opening this series on differing perspectives and points of view in the making of Latin America.

And at home, close to my heart and my office, my wife Louise and son Carlton have patiently put up with dad once again obsessed by some historical figure or subject, this time the friar Las Casas for over ten years that I will admit to.


1485Birth of Bartolomé de las Casas, Seville, Spain
1492–93First voyage of discovery, Christopher Columbus
1493Bull Inter Caetera of Pope Alexander VI
1502First trip to the Indies, Las Casas
1511Antonio Montesinos’s sermón, Santo Domingo
1512Laws of Burgos
1514Massacre at Caonao, Cuba and Las Casas’s prophetic call
1515Las Casas returns to Spain
1516Memorial de remedios to Cardinal Cisneros
1517Las Casas’s second trip to the Indies
1517Las Casas with the Hieronomites in Santo Domingo
1517Las Casas returns to Spain
1519–21Conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés
1520Las Casas’s third trip to the Indies
1519–22Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigates the world
1520–21Venezuela (Cumaná) experiment
1522Las Casas joins Dominican Order, Santo Domingo
1526–31In Puerto Plata, “long sleep”
1527Las Casas begins to compose History of the Indies
1531–33Between Puerto Plata and Santo Domingo
1532–34Conquest of Peru by Francisco Pizarro
1533Las Casas and Enriquillo
1535Las Casas’s Attempt to reach Peru
1535–36Las Casas goes to Nicaragua
1536–40Las Casas in Guatemala and Mexico
1537Pope Paul III’s Bull on American Indians
1540Return to Spain, Las Casas
1542Publication of New Laws for governing the Indies
1543Las Casas appointed Bishop of Chiapa
1544Las Casas’s fourth trip to the Indies
1544–47In Guatemala, New Spain
1545–63Council of Trent meets
1547Las Casas returns to Spain
1550–51Debate between Las Casas and Ginés de Sepúlveda
1552Las Casas publishes major tracts, Seville
1553–61Las Casas in Valladolid
1561–66Las Casas in Madrid
1566Death of Las Casas


All dates relating to Las Casas largely from Isacio Pérez Fernández, O. P. Cronologia documentada de los viajes, estancias y actuaciones de Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Bayamon, Puerto Rico: Centro de Estudios de los Dominicos del Caribe, Universidad Central de Bayamon, 1984), supplemented by Helen Rand Parish, Las Casas en México (Mexico, 1992).


The age of the exploration and conquest of the Americas has undergone some remarkable changes in interpretation in the past half century. This short book will serve as an introduction to this seminal period in world history encompassed by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

You will read about traditional and modern interpretations of what happened, and how historians and other students of the past such as archaeologists, ethnographers, and demographers have defined and studied the changes in world history prompted by this great encounter between two worlds. As the distinguished historian John Parry once observed, “America was not discovered by the Europeans; it was truly a meeting of two cultures who had not known each other previously.”

Most readers are familiar with some of the bare facts of the age of the conquest: the discoveries made by Christopher Columbus; the beginning of the European settlements on the large islands of the Caribbean, and then the continuing conquest of lands and Amerindian peoples across the continents of North America and South America and including the connecting isthmus of Central America. But as researchers have probed more deeply into the documentation and have embraced new priorities and brought new perspectives into the equation of interpreting the past, it seems that the history of the Conquest has been loosened from its foundations and radiates with controversy and differing points of view.

For example, to label it the “Conquest” of America is hardly acceptable to a new generation of scholars. It was, as John Parry noted, a meeting of two worlds, an encounter between two civilizations, and you will often find “Encounter” used as a substitute for “Conquest.” In this book, we will use both, for each has a special meaning. Conquest implies a superiority of one civilization over the other, while encounter implies a greater equality of customs and culture, each different in many ways but neither “superior” in overall qualities. That the Spanish and Portuguese wielded a technological and military superiority over most of the Amerindian peoples, from the village-level people of the Caribbean to the great state-level Archaic empires of the Aztec in Mexico and Inca in Peru, is generally true, and thus “conquest” by arms is appropriate. But even within this category, there is disagreement. The Spanish, armed with swords of Toledan steel and great war horses, did not simply ride roughshod over Amerindians armed with primitive weapons, absolutely intimidating and overwhelming the Tainos, for example, on the island of Española or the Aztecs of central Mexico. The first “battle” or campaign between the Tainos and Spaniards on Española went to the Tainos, and the mighty conquistador of the Aztecs, Hernán Cortés, waged a campaign of fire and terror between 1519 and 1523 on the Aztecs, the outcome of which was not a given. The Aztec warriors gave as much as they took and the pendulum of battle swung back and forth, driven by courage, wile, terror, technology, and disease, all in different proportions at different times of the campaign.

The first chronicles or histories of any given era—such as the Encounter—are usually the ones to establish the “orthodox” or traditional view of what happened. History is based on documentary evidence, which by definition is based on written records. Since the Spanish were literate and the great bulk of the Indian population was not, the first chronicles and records of the Conquest were produced by Spaniards. Their point of view was celebratory and triumphant, while the Indian perspective was submerged or highly skewed, seen through the lens of Spanish customs and traditions.

The Spanish, or Eurocentric, perspective is challenged by contradictory evidence and points of view, many of them recent, born of new scholarship, but some perspectives—as you will read shortly below—arise from eyewitness accounts by Spaniards of the epoch itself. Some of these eyewitnesses did not view the Conquest as the unvarnished triumph of Spanish culture and Christianity over Amerindian barbarism and paganism. Other issues dot the landscape of the Encounter.

We do not really know how many people inhabited the Americas when Columbus completed his first voyage: Twenty-five million? Fifty million? One hundred million? More? Nor are we sure how devastating the role of diseases—largely European ones to which Amerindians had no immunities—played in the eventual predominance of the Spanish military conquest of the Americas. Scholars in the mid-twentieth century, led by a group of demographers, ethnographers, geographers, and historians at the University of California, determined with some precision—they thought—that the scythe of European epidemic diseases, such as smallpox, laid waste the Amerindian populations and thus made possible the swift conquest of the Americas. It certainly helped to have “General Smallpox” marching alongside Hernán Cortés into Mexico, or with Francisco Pizarro into Peru in 1532, but recent scholarship has considerably downplayed the role of disease and instead substituted the growing weight of European settlers to the Americas as a factor in the Encounter. Even the widespread assertion that a smallpox pandemic spread with terrifying rapidity across Mexico and Peru has been questioned in the light of studies on the actual spread of the disease—usually slowly and only among families, household members and others who had to be in close contact with an infected person. Reports of the spread and devastating effects of smallpox, as described by chroniclers, and accepted by historians of the twentieth century looking to the germs and diseases theory to account for the rapidity of the Spanish Conquest, simply do not conform to how smallpox spreads.

The legends of the Spanish conquistadors have been persistent, given life by the accounts of the Spanish themselves of course. Did the Amerindians really consider the European strangers to be gods in some human form? Were Amerindians religions so different from the Roman Catholicism that came in with the Spaniards? Did these same Spaniards truly think of the Amerindians as a lesser form of humankind?

These and other questions, and how they are addressed and answered, come broadly under the category of historiography, which is the study of how historians over the ages have interpreted the facts. In the pages that follow, you will find three basic elements, all essential to any good history: first, a presentation of the basics of the exploration, discovery, and conquest of the Americas; second, a presentation and discussion of the differing interpretations of what it all actually means—often very nuanced but sometimes radically different; and third, woven into all of this, the life of one man, Bartolomé de las Casas (1485–1566), to give this history a human face. Las Casas, however, was no ordinary Spanish settler in the “Indies” (a term employed by the Spanish to describe the Americas, along with the “New World” occasionally).

Arguably the most important person of the age after Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), Las Casas was involved at almost every stage, major event, or controversy of the Conquest in one fashion or another. Las Casas, who became a priest and later a Dominican friar, was formed by the powerful forces of the epoch. But he was also a principal actor and eyewitness to the Conquest, and his writings and hot rhetoric helped fashion how Europeans and Amerindians clashed and adapted to each other in the unique environment following Columbus’s first voyage 1492–1493. As one of his contemporaries noted, “He is a candle that lights everything in sight!” And unlike Columbus, who only became celebrated centuries after his death, Las Casas achieved notoriety among his fellow countrymen in his lifetime because of his radical stands in defense of the Indians.

At the core of his life was an almost fanatical defense of the Indians in the face of the Spanish Conquest, sometimes labeled an “invasion” by modern students, and certainly seen so by the Indians. The settler/conquistador class lambasted Las Casas as a traitor to his race for pandering to the pagan Indians, whose religious culture included human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism, considered obscenities by Christians.

Las Casas defended the Indians with equal hyperbole, exaggerating their virtues and denouncing Spanish atrocities and the seemingly wanton destruction of an innocent people. When one reads accounts or descriptions of Las Casas’s actions or life, either written by critics or defenders in his own lifetime or produced five hundred years later in the twenty-first century, it is often like reading about two different people. In his lifetime, he divided people with his radical philosophical and theological interpretations and actions; in modern times he has been both edified and vilified. Some consider him a traitor to the Spanish nation; others are sponsoring a move to beatify him in preparation to name him a saint in the Catholic Church.

Las Casas first traveled to the Indies, to Santo Domingo, the capital of the growing Spanish colony of Española (today the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti) in 1502 with his father, who was returning to the Indies for the second time as a merchant. Then, only about 18, he had already decided to enter the clergy and had started down the road to priesthood by taking minor orders. In that sense, he represented one of the great streams contributing to the forthcoming conquest of the Americas, the spiritual one. The Church, Roman Catholicism being the religion of Spain, played an immense role in the nature and process of the Spanish Conquest of the Indies, or, putting the event into a larger context, the European encounter with and reaction to a new world where the people did not know Christianity and worshipped in many different ways. Las Casas and his clerical peers who went to the Indies in this early period fervently sought to evangelize and convert the Indians to Christianity, and the story of Las Casas’s efforts is representative of the whole phenomenon of the evangelization of the Indians over the next half century, especially by members of the three great religious orders of the times, the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians.

If Christianity represented one stream contributing to the river of Spaniards traveling to the Americas, another one was the role of his father as a merchant and trader. Like Columbus, the son of a Genoese merchant who traded throughout the Mediterranean world, Las Casas and his father were part of a merchant family whose fortunes rose and fell on the ships and goods they traded throughout the world as it was known to them at the end of the fifteenth century. The Spaniards and Portuguese made a good living at buying, transporting, and selling goods, from African slaves to sugar, across the nexus of Atlantic ports and merchants. The horizons of these merchants were expanded considerably by Portuguese explorations and trade down the coast of Africa in the fifteenth century and by Columbus’s truly revolutionary voyage across the Atlantic near the end of that century. Las Casas and his contemporaries were there, in fact, at the opening of a historical phenomenon now known more precisely as the “Atlantic World.” As Thomas Benjamin noted, “Prior to the fifteenth century, the peoples, societies, and politics in the Americas, Africa, and Europe had little or no contact with one another.” Columbus’s voyage, and the continuing exploration for trade and commerce down the African coast and out into the Atlantic islands by the Portuguese, changed that world from one of relative provinciality and isolation to one of connections, change, and growth. “The arrival of Europeans in West Africa and in the Americas,” Benjamin wrote, “transformed the lives and destinies of Africans and Indians, sometimes for better and more often for worse … the Atlantic World became a New World for all.”

Las Casas and his contemporaries were heirs as well of another tradition deeply imbedded into the psyche of Christian Spain. As a boy, he had grown up in the age of the great Catholic sovereigns of Spain—Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband King Ferdinand of Aragon—on the verge of seizing the last Moorish kingdom of Granada in Iberia in 1492, and thus completing the long Reconquest of Spain for Christendom. Muslim peoples from Africa had crossed over the Straits of Gibraltar almost eight hundred years earlier, in 711 AD, and conquered most of the Iberian peninsula for Islam. Beginning around the year 1000, small Christian kingdoms in the far north of Iberia, along the coast facing the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean, began a series of raids and invasions that kicked off the long almost five hundred year era of the Reconquest of Spain for Christendom. The Reconquest imbued Spain with a curious attitude of tolerance among Christians, Jews, and Moors (the term used by the Spanish to refer to Muslims and their descendants in Spain) in the medieval period, but that tolerance gradually gave way to a militant, intolerant Christianity by 1492.

The long period of intermittent but often brutal warfare between Christians and Moors over the centuries produced a hard, almost contemptuous disregard for life and the suffering of individuals caught in the cauldron of war. When the Spaniards of the Reconquest reached the Indies, they carried with them their habits of war, and they forced the Tainos of the island of Española to submit to their authority in the same fashion in which they had brought the Moors of Granada to their knees. Las Casas witnessed the “reduction” (a euphemism favored by the conquistadors) of the island’s inhabitants to obedience to work in the mines extracting gold, thinly disguised by the rationalization that this was necessary to bring Christianity to the Indians. Las Casas recorded a great deal of what he witnessed and this documentary evidence became the source of the “Black Legend,” the fiction or fact (depending upon your point of view) that the Spanish were uniquely cruel and insensitive in their encounter with the Amerindians across the Americas.

The counterargument to the Black Legend was the White Legend. It came into existence in the twentieth century, constructed by patriotic Spaniards to counter the Hispanophobic Black Legend that had been used by Protestants in Spain’s rival European states, especially England, to batter the image of Catholic Spain in the many wars of competition among European nations over the centuries. The White Legend argued that Spain was no worse than her English, French, and Dutch rivals in their invasions of America, and that, in fact, the bringing of Christianity—with a few excesses acknowledged, given the innate corruption of man—to the Amerindians freed them from the deceptions of the devil and endowed them with eternal salvation. If there were ever two almost diametrically opposed points of view, they can be seen in how people over the ages—of all nationalities and across the five centuries—have interpreted the nature of the conquest of the Americas. And providing much of the documentary evidence, through his writings, was Las Casas.

There has been, for example, a recent trend in scholarship attributing a great deal of “agency” to Amerindians in the course of the conquest and settlement of the Americas. This means simply that the Amerindians were able to, and did, act on their own behalf a lot more than has heretofore been ascribed to them by standard accounts of the Conquest. For example, they preserved many of their religious practices and customs even in the face of the demands of the Spanish to convert and conform to Christianity. “Agency” has been attributed in many other realms—language, food, gender, legal traditions, political structures, and family values—to the continuing existence of an Amerindian culture in many parts of the Americas, so much so that someone reading of Amerindian agency might be tempted to think that the Conquest was not so bad after all. Of course, one has to investigate specific areas at specific times, for overarching generalizations will obscure competing points of view.

The experiences of the Taino Indians on the island of Española are very different from those of the Incas in the southern highlands of Peru, for example. The latter survived, while the former did not. There are no direct descendants of the Taino in the modern Dominican Republic or Haiti. On the other hand, Inca descendants number in the millions in southern Peru and in neighboring Bolivia, and all along the highlands of the Andes into Ecuador. Were the dynamics of the Conquest so different in the Greater Antilles (the large islands in the Caribbean of Cuba, Española, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica) than in the high valleys of the Andes, or in the heart of Mexico, where hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, survived the Conquest?

In fact, few Amerindians—whether the village-level Tainos of Española or the state-level Incas of the great capital city of Cuzco—viewed the coming of the Spanish as anything more than some unmitigated evil inflicted on them by circumstances or gods. As Las Casas recorded, they died on the islands by the hundreds, then the thousands, and then the tens of thousands as the exploration, discovery, and conquest proceeded through the Greater Antilles, eventually reaching the mainlands of Mexico, Central America, North America, and South America within twenty years of Columbus’s first voyage. Las Casas’s critics claim he exaggerated the toll, the pain, the injury, the injustice, and the cruelty of the conquistadors, and, in doing so, indicted his own race, while grossly extolling the virtues of the Amerindians. What, in fact, was Las Casas’s point of view?

Las Casas was acting well within a powerful tradition in Christianity, the role of prophet. He has been described as historian, biographer, proto-anthropologist, chronicler, social activist, advocate, and, of course, writer. He was all of those, but, overriding all of those, he was a prophet in the model of the Old Testament, sent by God “to go out and preach to his people, usually for the purpose of calling them back from some errant way.” Prophets saw themselves not as seers or forecasters of the future, but as messengers picked out by God.

Was Las Casas called by God, in some vision or mystical experience similar to the prophets of the Old Testament? Las Casas certainly thought so, as you will read below in the experience he credits with his call as prophet. And, as Stafford Poole noted, once called, “the call cannot be rejected.” Like Jeremiah and others, Las Casas was compelled to carry out his mission, in his case, protecting the Indians of the Americas.

Another characteristic of the prophet was to see things in black and white, in absolutes. Compromises may be required in pursuit of the goal, but were not acceptable in the long run. Prophets, to further their mission, often described themselves, their enemies and the world around them in extremes, using superlatives and hyperbole, exaggerating virtues and vices. To further his vision, the prophet, and this was especially true of Las Casas, recorded the events he had witnessed, or read about, in his lifetime and in doing so also became one of the principal chronicler/historians of the Conquest.

What Las Casas witnessed on the island of Española between 1502–1511 (and wrote about in his History of the Indies) determined the course of his life: defending the Amerindians from the abuses inflicted upon them by the Spanish. He returned to Spain on at least four occasions in his lifetime, each time to seek the support of the Crown and like-thinking allies, especially among the Dominicans and Franciscans, and he became the most outspoken, well-known protector of Amerindians before the forums of power in Spain.

In doing all this—as friar, prophet, and protector of Indians—Las Casas’s life provides a core experience, from his arrival in the New World in 1502, to his death in 1566, to explore the foundations of Spain’s empire in the Americas. His life spanned almost exactly the age of exploration, discovery, and conquest. But, while his life gives us the thread and gateway into the history of the Conquest, it was not Las Casas, but Christopher Columbus who kicked it off.


John H. Parry, “Early European Penetration of Eastern North America,” in R. Reid Badger and Lawrence A. Clayton, eds. Alabama and the Borderlands: From Prehistory to Statehood (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1985), pp. 83–95.

Amerindian is a conflation of American and Indian and is used occasionally in this book following modern practice, although you will see Indian employed more frequently since this book is about the Americas, not the subcontinent of India in Asia.

“Nahua” is used more and more frequently by scholars writing about the Amerindians of central Mexico, but we have observed the traditional convention of “Aztec” since it is acceptable and easily recognizable. See “Notes on Sources and Conventions Used,” in Stuart B. Schwartz, ed. and introduction, Victors and Vanquished: Spanish and Nahua Views of the Conquest of Mexico (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000), pp. ix–x.

See, for example, George Raudzen “Outfighting or Outpopulating: Main Reasons for Early Colonial Conquests, 1493–1788,” in George Raudzens, ed. and contributor, Technology, Disease, and Colonial Conquests, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries: Essays Reappraising the Guns and Germs Theories (Leiden: Brill, 2001), pp. 31–57.

See Francis Brooks, “The Impact of Disease,” in Raudzens, Technology, Disease, pp. 127–165.

See Matthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) for an accessible presentation of some of these “myths” of the conquest.

Since Columbus thought he had found his way to Asia, and the “Indies,” a kind of amorphous term that Europeans sometimes employed for Asia, or what they knew of it, Columbus referred to the islands he had found as part of the “Indies.” The name stuck among Spaniards and for most of the colonial period, in Spanish documents, the Americas were often referred to as the Indies.

Bartolomé de las Casas, Obras completas, vol. V, p. 2160: “porque es una candela que todo lo encenderá.”

Thomas Benjamin, The Atlantic World: Europeans, Africans, Indians, and Their Shared History 1400–1900 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009). This and the following quote in text are from pp. xxv–xxvi and xxix, respectively. Benjamin’s work is an excellent introduction to the Atlantic world.

See Fernando Cervantes, The Devil in the New World: The Impact of Diabolism in New Spain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997) for a good example of modern literature exploring this theme.

A good discussion of the preservation and continuation of American culture is Chapter , “The Indians are Coming to an End: The Myth of Native Desolation,” in Matthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). Restall, in fact, presents a fairly balanced description, but fully integrates into his challenge of this myth many articles of “agency” faith.

Those who allied themselves with the Spanish to defeat ancient enemies of course welcomed these very good soldiers armed with steel and horses, but embracing the powerful ally who had helped you in combat was a dangerous business for even allies were looked upon with suspicion by the powerful and often duplicitous Spanish.

Stafford Poole, essay on “The Prophetic Personality in Scripture and History,” contained in a personal communication (email) to L. Clayton, October, 2009. The essay was read at a conference at the University of Florida in the 1990s.

See Chapter .

Poole, essay on “The Prophetic Personality in Scripture and History.”

You will find “chronicler” and/or “chronicle” used often interchangeably with historian and history in the story of Las Casas. He considered himself a historian, but since he wrote in a roughly chronological order, recording faithfully many of the events he either witnessed, heard about, or read about, he is called a chronicler, whose root is the Greek work for “time.” He was, in fact, both, chronicler and historian, one who analyzes and contextualizes the past, rather than simply recording as—in theory—a chronicler did. See L. A. Clayton “Teaching Las Casas through the Lens of the Historian,” in Santa Arias and Eyda M. Merediz, eds. and contributors, Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Bartolomé de las Casas (New York: Modern Languages Association of America, 2008), pp. 33–41.