The Valladolid Debate

20 Feb, 2020 320 Political science

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the debate in Valladolid, Spain in 1550, over Spanish rights to enslave the native peoples in the newly conquered lands. Bartolome de Las Casas (pictured above), the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, was trying to end the encomienda system in which those who now owned the land could also take the people in forced labour. Juan Gines Sepulveda, a philosopher, argued for the colonists’ property rights over people, asserting that some native Americans were ‘natural slaves’ as defined by Aristotle. Valladolid became seen as the first open attempt by European colonists to discuss the ethics of slavery, and Las Casas became known as ‘Saviour of the Indians’ and an advocate for human rights, although for some time he argued that African slaves be imported to do the work in place of the native people, before repenting.

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  • Caroline Dodds Pennock 2 episodes
    Senior Lecturer in International History at the University of Sheffield
  • John Edwards 2 episodes
    Faculty Fellow in Spanish at the University of Oxford
  • Julia McClure No other episodes
    Lecturer in Late Medieval and Early Modern Global History at the University of Glasgow

Reading list

  • Bartolome de las Casas
    Lawrence A. Clayton (Cambridge University Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America
    Lewis Hanke (Andesite Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • All Mankind Is One: a Study of the Disputation Between Bartolome De Las Casas and Juan Gines De Sepulveda in 1550 on the Intellectual and Religious Capacity of the American Indians
    Lewis Hanke (Northern Illinois University Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
    Bartolome de las Casas (trans. Nigel Griffin) (Penguin, 1992) Google Books →
  • Bartolome de las Casas, O.P.: History, Philosophy, and Theology in the Age of European Expansion
    David Thomas Orique O.P. and Rady Roldan-Figueroa (Brill, 2018)

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Auto-category: 326.8 (Slavery and emancipation)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1550, at Royal Command, two sides met in Valladolid in Spain to debate the future of slavery in the new Spanish colonies in the Americas.