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Europeans Reactions to New World Religions


  • How did Catholic writers such as José de Acosta understand indigenous religions?
  • What role did the Devil play in creating indigenous religious practices, in Acosta's view?

Primary Source

  • Acosta, José de, Natural and Moral History of the Indies, trans. Frances López-Morillas, Duke University Press (Durham, 2002 [1590]), book V.

Required Secondary Readings

Please read ONE of the following:

  • MacCormack, Sabine, ‘Gods, Demons and Idols in the Andes’, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 67:4 (2006) 623-647.
  • MacCormack, Sabine, ‘The Limits of Understanding: Perceptions of Greco-Roman and Amerindian Paganism in Early Modern America’, in America in European Consciousness, 1493-1750, ed. Karen Ordahl Kupperman, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, 1995).
  • MacCormack, Sabine, Religion in the Andes: Vision and Imagination in Early Colonial Peru, Princeton University Press (Princeton, 1991), chapter 6: ‘The Mind of the Missionary: José de Acosta on Accommodation and Extirpation, circa 1590’.

Additional Readings

  • Baird, Ellen, ‘Sahagún and the Representation of History’, Sahagún at 500: Essays on the Quincentenary of the Birth of Fr. Bernardino de Sahagún, Academy of American Franciscan Historians (Berkeley, 2003).
  • Barrera-Osorio, Antonio, Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empires and the Early Scientific Revolution, University of Texas Press (Austin, 2006), chapter 5.
  • Brading David, Brading David, The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots and the Liberal State, 1492-1867 Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 1991).
  • Cervantes, Fernando, The Devil in the New World: the Impact of Diabolism in New Spain, Yale University Press (New Haven, 1994)
  • Clendinnen, Inga, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatán, 1517-1570.
  • Thomas Cummins, ‘To Serve Man: Pre-Columbian Art, Western Discourses of Idolatry, and Cannibalism’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, vol. 42 (2002),
  • S Gruzinski, Painting the Conquest: The Mexian Indians and the European Renaissance (Paris 1992)
  • Pagden, Anthony, European Encounters with the New World, Yale University Press (New Haven, 1993).
  • Pardo, Osvaldo, The Origins of Mexican Catholicism: Nahua Rituals and Christian Sacraments in Sixteenth-Century Mexico, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, 2004).