This dissertation explores the process that drives Bartolomé de Las Casas from his early support for introducing black slaves in the West Indies to his late and strong criticism of the Portuguese slave trade in the third volume of The History of the Indies, and his regret for his early support of slave trafficking. Seeking to move beyond the traditional apologetic approach, our argument proceeds by a close genealogical reading of all of Las Casas' known writings on the question of slavery. Our hypothesis is that from a representation that presents African slaves as a necessary commodity for the colonization of the New World, Las Casas will move toward a point of view according to which black slaves are similar to the indigenous population that he had defended in many of his works. However, this attempt to equate the black slaves with the indigenous population remains unresolved in Las Casas' work. In his last writings, Las Casas comes to think of both slavery and slave population itself as a plaga.
We connect Las Casas' texts with (1) the early laws proposed by the Spanish authorities regarding black slaves, (2) the attempts of some Portuguese and Spanish chroniclers and intellectuals to justify slavery, as well as some early criticisms of the enslavement of Africans, and (3) the defense of the indigenous population that Las Casas proposes and develops. Our research allows the recognition of an early and decisive moment in the debate about slavery in the Iberian world. By following Las Casas' texts about black slavery in the Indies, we can trace the basic arguments of both (1) discourses that justify and encourage black slavery, and (2) discourses that confront and criticize the Atlantic slave trade from its very beginning. Our conclusion is that the origins but also the aporias of an abolitionist position in the Iberian Atlantic pre-dating by almost a century and a half Northern European abolitionism are to be found in Las Casas.
|School:||University of Pittsburgh|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Latin American literature, Romance literature, Latin American history|
|Keywords:||Atlantic slave trade, Atlantic-Iberian pre-abolitionism, Casas, Bartolome de las, Early critique of slavery, Early representations of slaves, Sixteenth century, Slavery, Spain|
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