Legitimised violence in colonial Spanish America

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This chapter focuses on eight historical developments identified as contexts for legitimised violence in Spanish America. These include the wars of conquest, which Spaniards legitimised through 'factual' arguments, such as combating barbarity and bringing civility to indigenous peoples; the Spiritual Conquest of indigenous peoples and the associated activities of the Spanish Inquisition, both of which sometimes featured violence as a means to suppress what Spaniard categorised as heresy and idolatry; hemispheric slavery and its dehumanising nature, which left African and African-descended peoples vulnerable to violence; violence towards all women, but particularly towards indigenous and African women; and finally, state-sanctioned violence used as a tool to suppress 'revolts', which were often the product of European anxieties regarding colonial subjects. It is argued that the twin threads of violence that strung these developments together were the promise of wealth and status combined with an ideology of justification for committing violence. Acts of violence that historians might view as being homicidal, personal, arbitrary or contrary to Spanish law could, in fact, be justified, legitimised and committed with impunity in the name of 'civilising', with particularly horrific consequences for indigenous peoples throughout Spanish America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication1500-1800 CE
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781316340592
ISBN (Print)9781107119116
StatePublished - Mar 26 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities

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