Bartolomé de Las Casas


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Spanish missionary priest, the “Apostle of the Indies”. He was a Dominican friar who criticized the conquest and exploitation of the Indians of the Spanish colonies. He had himself participated as a settler in Hispaniola in 1502 and as a member of the expedition to Cuba in 1511–12. His change of heart came in 1514, and for the next 50 years he travelled between the colonies and Spain advocating humanitarian reform, especially the abolition of Indian slavery, and writing books arguing the equality of Indians as subjects of the king. The most famous work was his Brief History of the Indies (1539). In 1542 his campaigning led to the New Laws to protect Indians in Spanish colonies. Their effectiveness, however, was limited by the opposition of the conquistadores.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700).

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