Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Week 3: The Consequences of Colonialism and Rights


Week 3. The Consequences of Conquest and Colonialism


To what extent can we trace thinking on human rights back to Hispanic Scholasticism and the early colonial experience? How has writing about this changed over time?

How did sixteenth century Europeans make sense of the New World and the people of the America? How did the peoples of the America make sense of the early colonial experience? What was the nature of the philosophical debate regarding the relationship between the people of the Old and New Worlds? How was citizenship imagined for different groups? How was this reflected in legislation? How did people use the law to resist and/ or negotiate to protect their interests? 


Core Readings: 


Tamar Herzog “Colonial law and Native Customs: Indigenous Land Rights in Colonial Spanish America.” The Americas 63(3) (2013): 303-321.


Felipe Gómez Isa. “Spain: The First Cry for Justice in the Americas - From Antonio De Montesinos to the Laws of Burgos (1512).First Fundamental Rights Documents in Europe: Commemorating 800 Years of Magna Carta, edited by Markku Suksi et al., Intersentia, 2015, pp. 93–106. 




Nancy E. Van Deusen. Global Indios: The Indigenous Struggle for Justice in Sixteenth-Century Spain, Duke University Press, 2015. (Introduction)


Nicole von Germeten. "Black Brotherhoods in Mexico City". In Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Matt D. Childs, and James Sidbury, eds. The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.


Background Reading: 

Oxford Handbook (Chapters 1-4, take your pick). 

Chasteen (Relevant chapters) 

Williamson (Relevant chapters) 


Further Reading:

Sherwin K. Bryant, Rachel Sarah O'Toole, and Ben Vinson, eds. Africans to Spanish America: Expanding the Diaspora. Baltimore: University of Illinois Press, 2012. (Especially Part II and Chapter by O'Toole) 

Louise M. Burkhart. The Slippery Earth: Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 1989.

Daniel Castro. Another Face of Empire: Bartolome; de Las Casas, Indigenous Rights, and Ecclesiastical Imperialism, Duke University Press, 2007.

Karoline P. Cook. Forbidden Passages: Muslims and Moriscos in Colonial Spanish America. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

Karoline P. Cook. 'Muslims and the Chichimeca in New Spain: the Debates over Just War and Slavery'. Anuario de Estudios Americanos. 2013 ; Vol. 70, No. 1. pp. 15-38.

Jack Donnelly, ‘Human Rights as Natural Rights’, Human Rights Quarterly 4:3 (Autumn 1982), 391-405.

Nancy Farriss. Maya Society Under Colonial Rule: the collective enterprise of Survival, Princeton N.J: Princeton, 1984.

Richard Gray ‘The Papacy and the Atlantic Slave Trade: Lourenço da Silva, the Capuchins and the Decisions of the Holy Office’, Past and Present, 1987: 115, 52-68.

Lewis Hanke. The Spanish struggle for justice in the conquest of America, 1949.

Nicole von Gemeten. Black blood brothers : confraternities and social mobility for Afro-Mexicans. University Press of Florida, 2006.

Nicole von Germeten. "Black Brotherhoods in Mexico City". In Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Matt D. Childs, and James Sidbury, eds. The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Elizabeth W.Kiddy. Blacks of the Rosary: Memory and History in Minas Gerais, Brazil, University Park, USA: Penn State University Press, 2021

Brooke Larson. Cochabamba, 1550-1900: Colonialism and Agrarian Transformation In Bolivia. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.

Sonya Lipsett-Rivera, To Defend our Water with the Blood of our Veins: The Struggle for Resources in Colonial Puebla. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.

Hebe Mattos, ‘Pretos’ and ‘Pardos’ between the Cross and the Sword: Racial Categories in Seventeenth Century Brazil’, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies April 2006, 50-80.

Edmundo O'Gorman. The Invention of America. 1961.

Anthony Pagden. Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagination: Studies in European and Spanish-American Social and Political Theory 1513-1830. New Haven/ London: Yale, 1990.

Anthony Pagden, "Dispossessing the Barbarian: The Language of Spanish Thomism and the Debate over the Property Rights of the American Indians" in Pagden (ed.),The Languages of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1987), 79-98. 

Gabriela Ramos, 'Pastoral Visitations: Spaces of Negotiation in Andean Indigenous Parishes.' The Americas, Volume 73, Issue 01, January 2016, pp 39-57. Special Issue, Canon Law and Its Practice in Colonial Latin America.

Patricia Seed 'Are These Not Also Men?': The Indians' Humanity and Capacity for Spanish Civilisation’, Journal of Latin American Studies 25:3 (1993), 629-652.

Patricia Seed. American Pentimiento: The invention of the Indian and the Pursuit of Riches. Minneapolis/ London: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.

Tatiana Seijas. Asian Slaves in Colonial Mexico: From Chinos to Indians (Cambridge Latin American Studies). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 

Karen Spalding, Huarochiri: a Colonial Province Under Inca and Spanish Rule. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1984.

Sweet, James H. Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. (Especially Part 2; African Religious Responses).

William B. Taylor and Franklin Pease G.Y Violence and Resistance in the Americas: Native Americans and the Legacy of Conquest, co-edited Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.

Brian Tierney, The Idea of Natural Rights, Emory, 1997.

Brian Tierney "Religious Rights an Historical Perspective." in John Witte, Jr., and Johan D. van der Vyver (eds.) Religious human rights in global perspective: religious perspectives. The Hague/ Boston: M. Nijhoff Publishers.1996. (See chapter scan)

Timothy Bowers Vasko. "That They Will Be Capable of Governing Themselves Knowledge of Amerindian Difference and Early Modern Arts of Governance in the Spanish Colonial Antilles." History of the Human Sciences, vol. 32, no. 3, July 2019, p. 24. 

Molly A. Warsh, “A Political Ecology in the Early Spanish Caribbean” The William and Mary Quarterly, 71:4, 2014, 517-548.

Williams, Caroline A. Williams. “Opening New Frontiers in Colonial Spanish American History: New Perspectives on Indigenous-Spanish Interactions on the Margins of Empire.” History Compass, vol. 6, no. 4, July 2008, pp. 1121–1139. (A useful review article).


Some Documentaries/ Seminars/ Podcasts: 

In Our Time: The Valladolid Debate, Radio 4, 20 February 2020

Miguel A. Valerio (Washington University in St Louis) presents "Afro-Mexican Kings and Queens: Black Joy, Sovereignty, and Being in Colonial Mexico," based on his forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press, with comments from Kaja Cook (Royal Holloway). IHR, 2021.


Primary Sources:

Ronald D. Hussey. "Text of the Laws of Burgos (1512-1513) Concerning the Treatment of the Indians."The Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 12, no. 3, 1932, pp. 301–326. 

"Laws of Burgos (1512-1513)" "New Laws of the Indies" and "Juan Gines de Sepulveda's Treatise on the Just Causes of War." in Bartolome de las Casas, An account, much abbreviated, of the destruction of the Indies, with related texts / edited, with an introduction, by Franklin W. Knight, translated by Andrew Hurley. 

Translations of these are also available online: 

Laws of Burgos (1512-1513): royal ordinances for the good government and treatment of the Indians Translated by Peter Bakewell, The New Laws of the Indies, 1542, (Fordham History Sourcebook) and Juan Gines de Sepulveda's Treatise on the Just Causes of War, 1547. 

Guaman, Poma de Ayala, Felipe. First New Chronicle and Good Government: On the History of the World and the Incas up To 1615, edited by Roland Hamilton, University of Texas Press, 2009. 

Barbara E. Mundy and Dana Leibsohn, "History from Things: Indigenous Objects and Colonial Latin America",World History Connected,2012. 

The Huexotzingo Codex, 1531. World Digital Library, Library of Congress