Cover of the Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias
|Author||Bartolomé de las Casas|
|Original title||Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias|
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (Spanish: Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias) is an account written by the Spanish Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas in 1542 (published in 1552) about the mistreatment of and atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of the Americas in colonial times and sent to then Prince Philip II of Spain.
Bartolomé de las Casas explains in the prologue that his fifty years of experience in Spanish colonies in Indies had granted him both moral legitimacy and accountability for writing this account. In 1516, Las Casas was granted the title of Protector of the Indians by Cardinal Cisneros after submitted report on how severe the demographic decline had been due to harsh labor and mistreatment by colonial officials. During the time when Las Casas served as the Protector of the Indians, several clerics from The Order of Saint Jerome attempted reform certain labor systems which incorporated native populace as labor forces. Their attempts, however, were deemed not effective enough to protect the welfare of the Indians by Las Casas, thus motivating him to return to Spain to appeal to the Spanish monarch in 1517.
From 1517 to 1540, Las Casas repeatedly traveled back and forth between Spain and Spanish colonies in Latin America for numerous times, struggling to find a common ground between Spanish authorities and his own humanitarian pursuit regarding the improvement of the conditions of Indian subjects in Spanish dominions.  One of many purposes of his travels was to continue to protest Spanish colonial mistreatment of Indians.
In 1542, after Las Casas first composed the account for which would be later known as A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, he presented the account as a proof of atrocities committed upon Indians by colonial authorities before the members of the Council of the Indies during the hearings on resolving issues of forceful conversion and colonial exploitation of Indians held under the order sanctioned by Charles I of Spain.
De Las Casas was one of the first advocates for the indigenous people. The book was published when De Las Casas was sixty-seven years old.A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is one of many books by De Las Casas that shows that he was highly persuasive and respected by the Spanish court.A Short Account was one of the most influential sources used to attempt to improve colonial conditions for the indigenous people. The book was also one of the first texts that revealed the devastation of Old World diseases in the New World.
This book has been critiqued for centuries for its reliability about the treatment of the indigenous people and the number of indigenous people who died as a result of the mistreatment by the Spanish conquistadors. This book was written to persuade the Spanish King to act in response to the Spanish conquistadors abuse on the indigenous population. As a primarily persuasive text, many critics argue that facts and figures about the mistreatment and death toll were exaggerated, making the text largely unreliable.
It was written for Charles I of Spain. Las Casas appeals to the King's pathos throughout his account by describing Charles I as a lover, cultivator and as a man of justice. One of the stated purposes for writing the account is his fear of Spain coming under divine punishment and his concern for the souls of the Native peoples. The account is one of the first attempts by a Spanish writer of the colonial era to depict examples of unfair treatment that indigenous people endured in the early stages of the Spanish conquest of the Greater Antilles, particularly the island of Hispaniola. Las Casas's point of view can be described as being heavily against some of the Spanish methods of colonization, which, as he describes, inflicted a great loss on the indigenous occupants of the islands. He described extensive use of torture, murder, and mutilation against the Natives by the Spaniards.
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is a book that marks a significant moment in the way 21st century colonial Latin American historians would address world history. By comparing what historians know today about colonial Latin America, with the descriptions and recommendations given by De Las Casas in A Short Account, they are able to understand more about De Las Casas' own biases, prejudices, and outlook on the colonization of the Americas. De Las Casas' A Short Account, was a revised history of the conquest, in the way that he includes facts that would aid him in his argument. De Las Casas' A Short Account, revealed the ways 16th century scholars used rhetoric to lobby for changes during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. His book, A Short Account, complicated the humanitarian and ethical arguments made in the 16th century by empathizing with indigenous people while recommending the use of enslaved African people in the Americas. De Las Casas supported the overall Spanish colonial experiment in the Americas, while condeming the abuse of the indigenous people.
De Las Casas used the term “New World” to look at the Americas and Western hemisphere and did not use the term or idea of the “ancient world” as a way to describe the Spain, Europe and the Eastern hemisphere. This linguistic shift marked a transition in historical text and thought by moving away from the medieval view of geography and world history to a more modern view. De Las Casas addressed the new population in the Americas and introduced it in a political way in addressing the Spanish King. De Las Casas introduced and presented the people of the Americas in the context of the Spanish empire.
De Las Casas is also noted as one of the first writers and thinkers to racialize the indigenous people of the Americas. In his attempt to defend the indigenous people, he argues that they are part of the human race by describing their bodies, skin color, language and culture. In A Short Account, De Las Casas racialized the indigenous people and created a new understanding for them in the context and hierarchy of European ideas of race.
His account was largely responsible for the passage of the new Spanish colonial laws known as the New Laws of 1542, which abolished native slavery for the first time in European colonial history and led to the Valladolid debate. This text was used as a way to convince the King of Spain of the cruelties caused by the Spanish Conquistadors. Thus, he did not focus or mention the effects of disease as a cause of suffering for the native people. Instead, De Las Casas focused on the suffering caused by the Spanish conquistadors so that the King would address the conquistador’s behavior.
It was republished in 1620, by Jan Evertszoon Cloppenburch, alongside the book Origin and progress of the disturbances in the Netherlands by Dutch historian Johannes Gysius. The book was frequently reprinted, alone or in combination with other works, in the Netherlands and in other countries struggling against the power of Spain in Europe and the Americas. The images described by Las Casas were later depicted by Theodor de Bry in copper plate engravings that helped expand the Black Legend against Spain.
The purpose of A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies was to convince the King of Spain to take action on the mistreatment of the indigenous people of the Americas. To make this point, De Las Casas has been accused by many scholars about making exaggerated claims in terms of the death toll and mistreatment of the indigenous people. De Las Casas also did not mention the number of indigenous deaths caused by Old World disease. This important detail was intentionally left out of A Short Account because De Las Casas wanted to make the Spanish conquistador’s abuse of the indigenous people the main cause of indigenous suffering and death.
Today, it is known that Old World diseases caused a large number of indigenous deaths. Thus, De Las Casas’ exaggerated claims and his intent to leave out important historical details has been criticised by many scholars. It is important to look at A Short Account as an important rhetorical book instead of only looking at it for its historical and scientific reliability.
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is a book that is acclaimed by scholars for its rhetorical effect. De Las Casas juxtaposes the inhumane mistreatment of the Spanish conquistadors with the inherent goodness of the indigenous people in an exaggerated manner in his strategy of persuasion. His text largely uses an emotionally persuasive argument instead of a logical argument in A Short Account in his effort to convince the King of Spain. De Las Casas revised and re-edited this book in order to make his best argument in favor of the indigenous people. 
- ^ abcde"Mirror of the Cruel and Horrible Spanish Tyranny Perpetrated in the Netherlands, by the Tyrant, the Duke of Alba, and Other Commanders of King Philip II". World Digital Library. 1620. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
- ^Also translated and published in English as A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, among several other variants.
- ^ ab"CASAS: A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE INDIES". www.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
- ^Bayle, Constantino (1945). El protector de indios. Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos. pp. 12–13.
- ^Wagner; Parish, Henry Raup; Helen Rand (1967). The Life and Writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 109–13.
- ^"CASAS: A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE INDIES". www.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
- ^Wagner; Parish, Henry Raup; Helen Rand (1967). The Life and Writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas. New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 109–13.
- ^ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvon Vacano, Diego (2012-01-01). "LAS CASAS AND THE BIRTH OF RACE". History of Political Thought. 33 (3): 401–426.
- ^ abcdefghijkJoralemon, Donald (Spring 1982). "New World Depopulation and the Case of Disease". Journal of Anthropological Research. 38: 108. JSTOR 3629951.
- ^1484-1566., Casas, Bartolomé de las, (1992). A short account of the destruction of the Indies. Griffin, Nigel. (1st ed.). London, England: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140445626. OCLC 26198156.
- ^De Las Casas, Bartolome (1992). A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. London: Penguin Classics. pp. xiii.
- ^"Mirror of the Cruel and Horrible Spanish Tyranny Perpetrated in the Netherlands, by the Tyrant, the Duke of Alba, and Other Commanders of King Philip II". www.wdl.org. 1620-01-01. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
Bartolomé de Las Casas 1474–1566
Spanish historian and polemicist.
Often characterized by modern historians as the "Defender and Apostle to the Indians," Bartolomé de Las Casas is known for exposing and condemning the violent practices of Spanish colonizers of the New World against native Americans. Marked by emotionally charged language and often exaggerated statistics, Las Casas's works caused him to be harshly criticized in his own lifetime as a threat to Spanish rule in America. Though more than four hundred years have passed since his death, the works of this controversial Dominican friar continue to elicit strong reactions from both detractors and defenders.
Bartolomé de Las Casas was born to an aristocratic family in Seville in 1474. He studied theology and law at the University of Salamanca before accompanying Columbus on his third voyage to America in 1498. In 1511 Las Casas went to Santo Domingo to join the priesthood; a year later, he participated in the colonization of Cuba. The torture, enslavement, and generally inhumane treatment of the Indians that he witnessed during Cuba's colonization compelled him to defend them against further mistreatment, and in 1521, by the decree of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (who was also king Charles I of Spain), Las Casas was granted an opportunity to plan and implement a system of non-violent colonization and Christian indoctrination in the district of Cumaná in Venezuela, but the experiment failed. Disheartened, he joined the Dominicans in 1523 and for several years refrained from any direct involvement in Spain's colonial policies. During this period of profound introspection, he began to write his first extensive works, the Historia de las Indias (History of the Indies; 1875) and the Apologética historia sumaria (Summary Apologetical History; 1951). In the 1530s Las Casas began once again to take an active role with regard to Spanish policies, travelling to Venezuela, Perú, New Granada, Darién and Guatemala to observe colonial practices. Assuming that the royal family and governing councils in Spain were unaware of the violent acts that conquistadors committed in their names, Las Casas drafted and circulated among them many treatises, proclamations, and petitions calling for the reform of Spain's colonization
practices. Named Bishop of Chiapas in Mexico in 1543, Las Casas remained in this position until he returned to Spain in 1549. In Spain, he began writing his Apología (In Defense of the Indians; 1552). This became the basis of his argument against Juan Gines de Sepúlveda, an Aristotelian scholar who argued at the council of Valladolid in 1550–51 for the continued violent means of New World conquest on the grounds that there is a natural inequality among human beings. Las Casas actively campaigned for more humane treatment of Native Americans until his death in Madrid in 1566.
Las Casas began writing his first comprehensive work, Historia de las Indias, around 1527. This polemical work outlines Europe's New World conquests from 1492 to 1520 and attempts to portray Native Americans as culturally different from, but equal to Europeans. At the same time, Las Casas started his Apologética historia sumaria, which recognized the legitimacy of Native American societies and argued that they would best respond to non-violent means of Christian indoctrination. Many of Las Casas's subsequent works consist largely of excerpts from these two histories. His most famous, the Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias (The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account, 1552), was his only work published before his death. Written in 1542 and published ten years later in Seville without the consent of the Royal Council, the Brief Account was Las Casas's most acrimonious assault on Spanish colonial policies. It was officially banned in Spain by the Holy Tribunal of Zaragoza in 1660, but new editions appeared periodically throughout Europe.
During his lifetime, many Spanish nationalists and governmental officials characterized Las Casas as a traitor and a fanatic who should be publically reprimanded and whose writings should be banned. Despite the negative reception in his homeland, Las Casas's influence had enduring political repercussions. His defense at Valladolid influenced Philip II's 1573 ordinance regulating the use of armed force during new conquests. His Brief Account was used as a source of anti-Spanish propaganda by the English at the end of the sixteenth century, and later by other countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France, and the United States. In 1898, prior to the Spanish-American War, a translation of the Brief Account (entitled An Historical and True Account of the Cruel Massacre and Slaughter of 20,000,000 People in the West Indies by the Spaniards) was published in New York in an effort to arouse negative sentiments against Spaniards in Cuba. Some modern Spanish historians still characterize Las Casas as delusional and dangerous, but many others contend that his often exaggerated testimony and somewhat dubious statistics do not significantly lessen the value of either his analyses or his humanitarian principles.