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A Short Account of the Destruction of the…
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A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552)

by Bartolome de Las Casas

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
776717,992 (3.65)11
  1. 10
    Aztec by Gary Jennings (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: A fictional retelling of the fall of the Aztec empire to the Spanish, from an Aztec's perspective. Telling details suggest Las Casas was a valuable source.
  2. 00
    History of the Conquest of Mexico by William H. Prescott (Cecrow)
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» See also 11 mentions

English (6)  French (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A must read only because it's a classic and an important historical document. de las Casas intended to write a legal and moral argument, 16th century style, detailing the murder and mayhem perpetrated by the Spanish Conquistadors in the Antilles (Caribbean islands, coastal Mexico, Central and South America)from Columbus's landfall in 1492 until the middle of the next century. But I knew that already. I didn't need to read this book to find that out. De las Casas's prose style is repetitive and numbingly dull(the following quote is something of an exception) while at the same time what he documents is still shocking, 500 years after the fact ("the Spaniards have a number of wild and ferocious dogs which they have trained especially to kill the people and tear them to bits . . . . they run a kind of human abattoir or flesh market, where a dog-owner can casually ask, not for a quarter of pork or mutton, but for 'a quarter of one of those likely lads over there for my dog'"). His account moves from one "peaceful" and "innocent" indigenous group to another (the inhabitants of Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Florida,etc.)describing their encounters with the Europeans who arrived ostensibly to bring them "civilization" and Christianity. de las Casas wanted to draw the Prince of Spain's attention to the brigands and butchers operating in the name of Spain and the Church, hoping that "if he only knew," the Spanish Crown would put a stop to the genocide. Not much success there, I'm afraid. The inhabitants of the islands were particularly unlucky. Nowhere to hide when the real estate is circumscribed by water on all sides . . . the particularly dire fate of the Arawak. I was reading this book while following the recent World Cup. Irrational as it sounds, A Short Account . . . didn't make me feel like cheering for Spain. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
An interesting account of the Spanish invasion and conquest of a great deal of Latin America beginning with Hispaniola and including Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. The text is mainly a litany of slaughter by various "tyrants", mainly rogue conquistadors, and their sheer avarice and "unchristian" behavior. The author became a Dominican monk after witnessing some of the incidents he describes, though the book is not heavy on religious rhetoric considering the time and place. Unfortunately he mentions very few of the Spaniards by name, although I am certain the names were known to contemporaries, and he gives very few details, but it is still strongly effective. The text I read was a translation into English from the late 1600s, so much of the spelling was creative; the edition itself was from Project Gutenberg, and unfortunately it had many mis-spellings because of poor proof-reading. A quick read, if a bit repetitive; recommended for those with an interest in early Latin American history. ( )
  belgrade18 | May 31, 2013 |
On the list of humanity's infliction of cruelty upon itself, the Spanish conquest ranks not far behind the Holocaust. The Aztecs and Incans are most frequently cited, but many other peoples were vanquished as well by gold-mongering conquistadors who didn't give a moment's thought to the inhumanity they were perpetrating on these "savages". It's only thanks to the regret of missionaries who lost conversion opportunities to these opportunists that we have this eyewitness account. The author frequently says he cannot bring himself to catalog in full the atrocities, only listing a few highlighted examples. He does not identify the Spaniards he charges by name, whether by choice or perhaps these were removed from the public account. It is a difficult, uncomfortable litany, and even the postscript adds little in the way of restitution, indicating that although the Spanish king responded to this account by enacting new measures, these were largely disregarded as they could not well be enforced. For posterity's sake I'm glad to have read this. For a more personal illumination of one part of the story, I'd recommend Gary Jenning's well-researched historical fiction novel "Aztec" which was my personal impetus for reading this non-fiction work. ( )
  Cecrow | Apr 5, 2013 |
Casas wrote this partly out of a very human concern for the lives of others, and partly from his own convictions and his sense of faith - he was convinced that God would punish the Kingdom of Spain for its sins unless something was done.

A retelling of wars, atrocities, tortures, exterminations, enslavement, and so forth in the 16th century in Cuba, Hispaniola, Mexico, Colombia. With contemporary illustrations! The main motives seem to be covered by greed for gold, deception with religion, or just cruelty.

This is also an early modern instance of atrocity being used as political propaganda, with Protestant nations such as England circulating this document as proof of Catholic depravity and corruption, and later historians attempting to white-wash (pardon the hideous pun) Spain's history, especially under the Franco regime. I recall another edition of the book being republished just in time for the Spanish-American War.

Although the majority of the Native American depopulation was likely carried out by disease, and some events appear to be exaggerated, this does not detract too much from de las Casas' frightening message. He saw terrible things happening and wanted to do something about it. It is this reason, and his being a lone voice in the wilderness, are why he endures. ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
If only even a quarter of this book is true, then the human race is truly to be pitied. I'm sure that most of it is indeed factual, and that is the sad part. Some people think that the New World just came into existence magically and that no one was living here prior. This book sheds some light as to what really happened and just how inhumane some people can be. ( )
  sealford | Jul 13, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (75 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bartolome de Las Casasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Griffin, NigelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffin, NigelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagden, AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Five hundred years after Columbus's first voyage to the New World, the debate over the European impact on Native American civilization has grown more heated than ever. Among the first--and most insistent--voices raised in that debate was that of a Spanish priest, Bartolome de Las Casas, acquaintance of Cortes and Pizarro and shipmate of Velasquez on the voyage to conquer Cuba. In 1552, after forty years of witnessing--and opposing--countless acts of brutality in the new Spanish colonies, Las Casas returned to Seville, where he published a book that caused a storm of controversy that persists to the present day. The Devastation of the Indies is an eyewitness account of the first modern genocide, a story of greed, hypocrisy, and cruelties so grotesque as to rival the worst of our own century. Las Casas writes of men, women, and children burned alive "thirteen at a time in memory of Our Redeemer and his twelve apostles." He describes butcher shops that sold human flesh for dog food ("Give me a quarter of that rascal there, " one customer says, "until I can kill some more of my own"). Slave ship captains navigate "without need of compass or charts, " following instead the trail of floating corpses tossed overboard by the ship before them. Native kings are promised peace, then slaughtered. Whole families hang themselves in despair. Once-fertile islands are turned to desert, the wealth of nations plundered, millions killed outright, whole peoples annihilated. In an introduction, historian Bill M. Donovan provides a brief biography of Las Casas and reviews the controversy his work produced among Europeans, whose indignation--and denials--lasted centuries. But the book itself is short. "Were I t describe all this, " writes Las Casas of the four decades of suffering he witnessed, "no amount of time and paper could encompass this task."
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Todo cuanto ocurri en las Indias (Amrica, por supuesto) desde su descubrimiento hasta los das a que se refiere el autor ha sido tan admirable, y tan no creble al mismo tiempo, en todo gnero, y a quien no las vio, que parece que se haba nublado silenciado. Explicacin sobre esto le fue pedida a Fray Bartolom de las Casas, la vez que vino a la Corte, abandonados ya los hbitos, a informar al emperador y que pusiese por escrito y con brevedad la relacin de acontecimientos y personas de los que tuvo conocimiento durante su estancia en Indias. As lo hizo, y esta es la Brevsina Relacin de la Destruccin de Indias tal y como el Emperador Carlos V la pudo leer y acturar en consecuencia.… (more)

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