Bartolome de Las Casas Book Review

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An Account much abbreviated of the destruction of the Indies, Indianapolis, IN, Hackett Publishing Company INC., 2003

Bartolme De Las Casas is an interesting character. His passion for people who at the time were seen as a sub species of humans (if even human at all) is remarkable. De Las Casas came from a modest family and was well educated. He was brought into the world of the America's through his father Pedro De Las Casas who was an encomiendo himself. His travels through the New World prior to 1510 when he became an ordained priest shaped his crusade to defend the Natives. There are many clues in this book which point to the exaggeration of its content. For instance at one point De Las Casas goes as far as to say that 12 million (then it changed to 13 and then again to 15 million) natives were there when the Spanish arrived and at the time he wrote Destruction of the Indies there were only 400 left, all of whom were killed by Spanish settlers. Disease was the main the cause of Native fatality and it is only mentioned when De Las Casas is describing the "delicateness" of the people. His portrayal of the Indians as meek, frail, most humble, most patient, most obedient and so on is so dramatized that the book becomes more like a parable than a documentation of events. De Las Casas' major emphasis for writing this book was obviously to persuade the King to out law the Spanish from destroying the Indians and his remarkably vivid description of the brutality used by the Spanish is very motivating for the reader to become emotionally involved. While its message is diluted by repetition and exaggeration the initiative for someone of that time to write something for the benefit of people who were not even considered worthy of acknowledgement is what makes this book worth reading. However, the tone of this "personal account" sounds more like a persuasive essay than a factual description of events. Not only do most of his eye-witness accounts seem highly unlikely...
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