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A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,914 ratings  ·  351 reviews
Paperback, 143 pages
Published June 25th 1992 by Penguin Classics (first published 1552)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Maru Kun
The index entry under “torture and death” in “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies” is as eloquent about the fate of the native people of the Americas on first meeting the Spanish conquistadors as any review I could write:

beating and flogging
beheading
burning
dashing against rocks
disemboweling
dismembering
drowning
genocide
hanging
impaling
killing for food
maiming
massacre
overworking
rape
savaging with dogs
strappado
suicide

I disappoint myself at never before having heard of Las Casas, whom Wikip
...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
Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Roy Lotz
This book reminds me—incongrouosly—of the Baburnama, the autobiography of the founder of the Mughal Empire. Not that the content or style of these two books is at all similar (though there are massacres in both), but that their historical interest far outpaces their reading pleasure.

Bartolomé de las Casas was a Spanish friar who took it upon himself to expose the plight of the American Indians. After experiencing a kind of epiphany as a young man, he sold his property and his slaves, and spent t
...more
Czarny Pies
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone even remotely interested in world history.
Recommended to Czarny by: Everyone. It is a well recognized classic.
Shelves: lat-amer-hist
This short document should be read by all those studying history as undergraduates and by anyone even moderately interested in the colonisation of the New World. A Spaniard and a Dominican friar, Las Casas was horrified by the atrocities that he saw being committed by his countrymen against the local Indian populations in the countries that they were seeking to colonize and economically exploit.

Las Casas spend over forty years pleading for changes to the methods used by the Spaniards which were
...more
Deirdre
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, history
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
Mar 08, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Conor Ahern
Man, white people have done some really awful shit.
Graychin
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
Nicole aka FromReading2Dreaming
This book was for one of my classes and it’s an account from a man who watched the slavery taking place in the Caribbean after Columbus “discovered” the Americas. It was really interesting because it illustrated that some people actually opposed what happened in the America’s. But it also illustrates the white savior complex, as the author details how they will save the people from slavery. Overall it was interesting to read.
Victor
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Then the hard, dry Spaniards came exploring through, greedy and realistic, and their greed was for gold or God. They collected souls as they collected jewels. They gathered mountains and valleys, rivers and whole horizons, the way a man might now gain title to building lots.” ― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Cindy Leighton
I love getting to occasionally teach high school history because I get a chance to read all the things I missed by being educated in the 1970s and 80s. .. I am glad to know my own kids assure me they read las Casas in high school while regretfully I did not - but my students will.

las Casas' eyewitness account of the genocide that took place in the Américas throughout the 16th century is beyond horrifying. Las Casas is very clear that the God of the Spaniard "explorers" is Gold; that "everyone, y
...more
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
David
Apr 22, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
insight and very disturbing. Violence and more violence. It was like a horror story except this was the founding of Latin America. truly an account of shame.
Brent
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers
Recommended to Brent by: Penguin Books
Short, indeed, a necessary primary source: the scale of violence is hard to fathom.
This is a useful edition, with an index, very helpful, and a few appropriate reproduced prints from the artist DeBry. I wish high schools would assign this as well; the violence would give anyone pause.
This is a must read.
Zana
Mar 12, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  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
Xander
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Spanish Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas was a 16th century missionary - he went to the Spanish Americas multiple times. Unlike most of his contemporaries - of which some even thought indians had no soul and therefore no right to live - he was appalled by what he saw.

Spanish armies destroyed villages, employed indians en masse - men, women and children (!) - in forced labour in gold mines and agriculture; had civilians killed on sight (if they were lucky) or tortured slowly to death
...more
Feliks
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-nonfiction
Pretty gory...better than most horror movies, in that it is instructive not just grisly. Of course, you can read it on the visceral level alone. For fans of purely the grotesque and the gruesome: this is certainly a slay-ride. The Conquest of the Indies is harrowing reading.

But it also provokes some thoughtful dilemmas. What kind of species are we, really? And you really gotta wonder about these Spaniards. How could they carry out this genocide in the name of 'Holiness' and then in the next cent
...more
Sjervey
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is essentially a catalog of atrocities allegedly committed by the conquistadors that invaded the new world under the aegis of the Spanish government. I say allegedly but I do not mean to imply that atrocities did not occur. They certainly did. It;s just that there is a degree of repetition in this book tht makes me wonder what Bishop de las Casas agenda was in writing it. WHo was his intended audience? What his hoped for result? I haven't researched that and I feel it should be before ...more
Funda Yokari
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing but heartbreaking letter of a priest from 15th century, explaining to the Spanish king what has been happening since Colomb discovered the new world, America. In the letter, he explains how kind, gentle and peaceful the Indian tribes were. He explains that in return of their hospitality and generousness, they received massacre and genocide as well as torture and slavery and cannibalism.
This small book depicts quite a picture about how America was before and what happened to every livi
...more
Donna
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Not an easy book to read. This is an account of the atrocities committed by the Spanish explorers in the New World. All those names you remember from the early history of North and South America—all of them—were guilty of unspeakable crimes in pursuit of more gold and slaves. Millions were killed. Each vignette was more terrible than the last.

What is interesting is that this book is the first one to set out human rights abuses. The author is a Dominican priest who was present in the New World f
...more
Darby
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Andy Lee
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An account of one of the greatest genocides in history. Difficult to read, but important to know that this happened.

Las Casas was one of the few people during that time that made the stand to shed light on the horrors perpetuated by the Spaniards on the indigenous populations of the Americas.
Mariam
Mar 17, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, Bartolome de las Casas
Anna Novakis
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have to put the book down to digest the atrocities, but it is mandatory for every “American” to read this absolute reality of our start.
Midge
May 04, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A harrowingly sentimentalist account of the colonial manufacturing of death, whether by way of mass-murder or the spread of disease. It is by no means anything other than an appeal to pathos (like much of the literature on colonial abuses of the time); unambiguously racist in its portrayal of Indigenous people as helpless. It was an incredibly difficult read given the tales of immolation, extermination through labour, mutilation and other methods employed to reap (often non-existent) gold from g ...more
Shelly
I would love to unpackage this account with more knowledgeable people. Bartholomew de Las Casas writes with abhorrence at the actions of the colonizers but is clearly writing to elicit a response. What response? He wanted to share truth. He wanted to shock his readers. But to what purpose? Not to end colonization (he writes to defend Spanish colonizers over German). Not necessarily in favor of Church colonization (though sort of). He is "on the side" of the indigenous people of Mexico but also d ...more
Michael Esquivel
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mexico, survival
Friar de Las Casas gave a detailed, eye-witness account as to the atrocities inflicted on the Native people of Latin America by the Spaniards. Many people are aware of some of the travesties these people suffered, but most do not know to what extent. The Spaniards only cared about finding gold by any means necessary. Each chapter describes a different location and each chapter tells the same story: The Spaniards enter a new territory and are greeted by the Native people. The Spaniards demand gol ...more
Tatiana
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Glad I read recommendation from an online professor. This was the American Holocaust. The raw description of the atrocities the indigenous people suffered gives a person context as why American society is in it's current state of upheaval. ...more
T.R. Cross
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unrelenting horrifying.
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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

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