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The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account
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The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  779 ratings  ·  89 reviews
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 C...more
Paperback, 152 pages
Published February 1st 1992 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1542)
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Hadrian
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 jus...more
Alexander Santiago
This book is something of a controversy amongst us caribbean latinos: some see it as a living testament to the atrocities and cruelties our Spanish ancestors inflicted on the natives in the Spanish quest and greed for gold in the New World; others have viewed it as pure propaganda, biased accounts and outright lies. I haven't really taken a position on this, but I can say that this had to have been the most disturbing book I have read. Told from the account of a Spanish colonizer who went to His...more
Branko Jovanovski
"Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?"

I wonder if the Ukrainian Famine, the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, the Southwest African Genocide, the Macedonian Genocide in Greece, the Palestinian Genocide, and so many other atrocities of the 20th century will be in 500 years forgotten and labelled "necessary" as the biggest genocide in the world has remained to be forgotten - the one of the uncounted tens of millions of Native Americans killed and tortures, their descendants...more
Deirdre
As historians and critics we try always to interpret documents in the context of the times out of which they were produced. We recognise that dominant ideologies in other cultures and other times were very different from our own. But then a rare and very different voice speaks to us, demonstrating that the dominant opinions were not the only ones, that there were a few rare minds interpreting their own times in ways we recognise. Such a voice is that of de Las Casas. He was a Spanish colonist op...more
April
I had to read this for World Literature...it wasn't very interesting. Basically, the Spanish go everywhere in the Indies and do unspeakable things to the natives. Except we're not really sure if they DID do what Las Casas claims, because he was prone to exaggerate to help sway the Spanish King. So, all we can really take from this narrative is: The Spanish probablyyyy weren't very nice.
Tim
I had never read an account of what the Spanish really did while they were 'exploring' the New World. This was eye opening. Not everything in this book is an eyewitness account, and some events are not believed to be fully accurate. But if even half of it is true, the atrocities committed by the Spaniards against the native american populations are astounding, perhaps even unsurpassed in human history.

I didn't give the book any stars because I didn't 'like' it. Reading about people torturing and...more
Mariam
Mar 17, 2013 Mariam marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, Bartolome de las Casas
Paula
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 n...more
Zana
Jul 29, 2013 Zana rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in Latin American history
Shelves: reviewed
Bartolomé de las Casas was such an interesting figure... While he advocated indigenous rights, he did so within the culture and context of colonial Spain so his views were inadvertently racist when viewed through the lens of the modern day. We don't really seem to touch on views which don't fit our current narrative. While discussions on de las Casas's political motives and intentions might derail us from the topic of indigenous rights, it is always good to remember that issues such as indigenou...more
Marie-aimée
Bref discours polémiste qui participe à l'élaboration de la légende noire de l'Amérique en opposant systématiquement, presque de façon manichéenne, les indigènes d'Amérique, bons et innocents, aux espagnols (et sous-entendu les "encomenderos")qui tuent, pillent et massacrent. On retrouve aussi l'image du loup et des agneaux qui appuit sa rhétorique, mais qui permet de percevoir l'enjeu : la proposition d'organisation et de réglementation des sociétés indigènes par dominicains, qui fait concurren...more
Douglas Dalrymple
How do you give a star rating to something like this? As a book it has its limits; as an historical record, it’s invaluable. It documents in gory and excruciating detail the long series of mass-murders, tortures, and enslavements that (along with the introduction of European diseases – unmentioned by the author) eventually reduced the native population of the Americas by as much as 90-95%.

It is a very painful read. But talk about a complicated, fateful figure…

Las Casas settled on Hispaniola in...more
Pedro Menchén

Este libro, como el propio título indica, es demasiado breve, pero da una ida de lo que fue la conquista de Las Indias por parte de algunos españoles, los cuales por lo visto sólo fueron a expoliar y destrozar aquellas tierras, y a exterminar a sus gentes, en lo que seguramente fue uno de los genocidios más horribles y nefandos de la historia, comparable sin duda al holocausto nazi. Muchos de los comportamientos de aquellos llamados conquistadores se parecen, por cierto, demasiado a los de los n...more
Herman Gigglethorpe
Full disclosure: I read this in Spanish, and often had to look up many of the words in a dictionary.

I give it a 3 star rating more for its historical value than anything else. The writing style is horrible. The sentences are long, with many commas, often describing Spanish atrocities, Your Highness, I beg you, intercede on behalf of the innocent Indians, who have no greed, lust, and are very patient, and faithful, even though they are not Christian, unlike the Castilians, who have greed and lust...more
James
Oct 20, 2007 James rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, esp. history buffs
Horrifically detailed account of the enslaving of the Native Americans by the Spaniards. Non-fiction. Be careful - not for the faint of heart. I understand it was a huge expose in Europe when it was published several hundred years ago and led to the Pope banning the enslavement of Native Americans because they were declared to "have a soul." Hence, Africans were imported because they were still conveniently "soul-less."
Stine Kristin
Although it is quite repetitive, this is a very important, well-written and disturbing book. Everyone should read it, and it should be taught in school. It's very easy to understand; the language isn't as complicated or intricate as one would perhaps expect a book written in the mid 1500-hundreds to be.
Most of all this is a terrible and gruesome story, and las Casas explains and understands a lot of what's behind and the causes to what he writes about.
It makes me almost cry when I think about wh...more
Darby
Mar 08, 2013 Darby rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: class
Definitely interesting - a newer point of view of imperialism that I had never seen from a European. That being said, reading the first twenty pages would have been the same as if I hadn't read all 138. Repetition can be done skillfully and this man did not harness that skill for this work.
Christopher
An important document with its heart in the right place, this is an fiery and impassioned argument in favor of indigenous rights and peace in the Americas, put forward at a time when it mattered. Las Casas notes so many egregious episodes of violence that it's hard to imagine the Spanish conquest being anything but thoroughly awful. That said, it's also challenging to read just one horrifying thing after another--it's a bit like reading a charge sheet rather than a narrative. But I appreciate th...more
Nicole
I almost don't know how to react or rate the Destruction of the Indies. On one hand, it is compact, well-written, and easy to understand centuries after its publication. The only reason why it's hard to get through is because the content is so brutal, with las Casas giving an account that barely scratches the surface of the horrors experienced by the Native Americans when Spaniards came to the New World. I think it's a very important book that everyone should read, especially if you live in the...more
Christina
omg this book is over a hundred pages that could all be summed up in one sentence: "The Spanish went to the New World and killed and raped and stole EVERYTHING from EVERYONE EVERYWHERE."
Cary
Rating this is a difficult. It's like trying to rate the Gulag Archipelago - it describes horrific things done to humans by other humans, but the writing style, well, it doesn't really have a style in the case of Gulag, at least not beyond matter-of-fact. Destruído is pretty matter of fact, but in 17th Century English. (I read an English translation available from Project Gutenberg.)

With that in mind, this is an important book. It is a first- and second- hand account of the treatment of the orig...more
Tim
Bartolomé de las Casas became briefly internet famous late last year thanks to this Oatmeal comic. Which is great - it's a fascinating story and the more people know about ugly history of New World imperialism the better. I read sections of the Destruction of the Indies back in college, but the full text is available for free from Project Gutenberg so I checked out. (Interestingly, the translation posted on PG dates from England in the 1600s and has a few lines of anti-Spanish, anti-Catholic pro...more
Valerie
This is not the edition I read, which was a facsimile of a translated (contemporary) edition. It's also apparently not searchable by the author; at least, I didn't find it by searching for it that way.

This book is heavily cited in accounts of the impact of early European 'conquerors' (especially 'conquistadores') on not only the 'Indies' (meaning Caribbean islands), but also on adjacent areas like Mexico and Florida. It's anything but a detached, 'objective' history: it's unabashedly a polemic....more
Ilya
In 1492, Columbus discovered America. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia, father of Lucrezia) granted the newly discovered New World to Spain and Portugal. When the Spanish wanted to conquer a native kingdom, they first had to read aloud a declaration that said that by the edict of Christ's Vicar on Earth, their land really belonged to the King of Spain, and they must submit to him, and if they didn't, the Spaniards would be justified in conquering it. No matter if the declaration was re...more
Lauren Hopkins
Awesome and slightly racist account of the Spanish colonization of the west indies. I say SLIGHTLY racist because if you've ready anything by Sepulveda you know what real racism sounds like! Las Casas was more...naive. He is anti-slavery with Indians in the new world (Africans, however, are another story!) and bemoans the Spanish treatment of the natives of Hispaniola, San Juan, Cuba and Mexico. However, he does it in a way that only a 16th century bleeding heart can...he practically ADMITS that...more
Mel
I read a 17th century English translation of Casas' book on Early English Books Online (EEBO), entitled "The Tears of the Indians". The book was originally published in the 16th century by Casas writing to the King of Spain to let him know of the atrocities being done by his subjects in the "new world". The book was translated into English, and several other European languages, at this time. It is a horrifying description of atrocity and genocide on an unbelievable scale. The book mentions the t...more
Elaine
Not really a book that should be judged with a 5-star ratings system (I don't really like those anyway), but I do have to give one.

This was written to persuade the powers that be in Spain to take action against the rape and pillage of the Caribbean and Central/South America by their countrymen as they destroyed the native populations of several islands and much of the territory now in the north of the continent of South America - in many cases, according to this narrative, completely obliteratin...more
Isotilia
In Brazil, most of people don't know Las Casas. I read only two previous references about him:
Arte de Furtar, Espelho de Enganos, Theatro de Verdades, Monstrador de Horas Minguadas, Gazua Geral DOS Reinos de Portugal: Offerecida a El-Rei Nosso that uses Las Casas books to show that all Spanish are brutal people.
Guia Politicamente Incorreto da História do Brasilwho says that Las Casas only wrote lies for promoting his religion.
Personally I believe in Las Casas due two reasons:
1) He didn't have a...more
Dusty
Las Casas's account of the Spanish conquest of the American mainlands and islands may be brief, but it certainly is not easy. Upstanding indigenous kings whose feet are burned until the marrow gushes forth, babies dismembered and fed to dogs, men forced to swim for pearls in waters infested with various breeds of vicious sharks -- I can't think of many books that detail happenings so gruesome, and throughout I felt sick to my stomach knowing that as a middle-class descendent of Europeans living...more
Jeremy Stephens
De las Casas does a great job of presenting his account of the genocide of the new world in a way in which all the literate people of his time could appreciate. First, there's the humanistic aspect- usually peaceful men, women and children are being savagely slaughtered by the millions. Secondly, he presents his interest as a clergyman- people are being slaughtered without being given the chance to find God and even those who do accept Christ are killed anyway since the Spaniards kill everyone...more
Everton Patterson
Bartolome De Las Casas' harrowing eyewitness account of the behavior of the Spanish conquerors in the Western hemisphere during the first 50 years of the conquest. Eventually becomes repetitive as a similar story plays out again and again: The Spaniards go to each new town, village or city, and (except in a few cases when their reputations precede them) are treated with welcome, which they invariably repay with savage brutality, enslaving, torturing and killing with impunity, being an ocean away...more
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Bartolomé de las Casas, O.P. (November 1484 – 18 July 1566), was a 16th-century Spanish historian, social reformer and Dominican friar. He became the first resident Bishop of Chiapas, and the first officially appointed "Protector of the Indians." His extensive writings, the most famous being A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and Historia de Las Indias, chronicle the first decades of...more
More about Bartolomé de las Casas...
In Defense of the Indians Historia De Las Indias (Cronistas De Indias) Indian Freedom: The Cause of Bartolomé de las Casas De las antiguas gentes del Perú (Edición de la Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes) (Spanish Edition) Kızılderililer Nasıl Yokedildi

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