Another Face of Empire

Bartolomé de Las Casas, Indigenous Rights, and Ecclesiastical Imperialism

Another Face of Empire

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: January 2007

Author: Daniel Castro

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies, Religious Studies

The Spanish cleric Bartolomé de Las Casas is a key figure in the history of Spain’s conquest of the Americas. Las Casas condemned the torture and murder of natives by the conquistadores in reports to the Spanish royal court and in tracts such as A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552). For his unrelenting denunciation of the colonialists’ atrocities, Las Casas has been revered as a noble protector of the Indians and as a pioneering anti-imperialist. He has become a larger-than-life figure invoked by generations of anticolonialists in Europe and Latin America.

Separating historical reality from myth, Daniel Castro provides a nuanced, revisionist assessment of the friar’s career, writings, and political activities. Castro argues that Las Casas was very much an imperialist. Intent on converting the Indians to Christianity, the religion of the colonizers, Las Casas simply offered the natives another face of empire: a paternalistic, ecclesiastical imperialism. Castro contends that while the friar was a skilled political manipulator, influential at what was arguably the world’s most powerful sixteenth-century imperial court, his advocacy on behalf of the natives had little impact on their lives. Analyzing Las Casas’s extensive writings, Castro points out that in his many years in the Americas, Las Casas spent very little time among the indigenous people he professed to love, and he made virtually no effort to learn their languages. He saw himself as an emissary from a superior culture with a divine mandate to impose a set of ideas and beliefs on the colonized. He differed from his compatriots primarily in his antipathy to violence as the means for achieving conversion.


Another Face of Empire provides a convincing argument for finally retiring the myth of Las Casas as the ‘ather of America’ and the ‘protector of the Indians.’” — Nicole von Germeten, A Contracorriente

“[An] insightful interpretive monograph. . . . This relatively short work is a gem of historiography, historical interpretation, legal and political analysis, and a penetrating look into the life of one of the leading hero-villains of the Spanish imperial story. Castro addresses what few scholars have emphasized, including the way the native people confronted Spanish domination and abuses.” — Russell Magnaghi, Terrae Incognitae

“[H]istorians of Latin America will find Castro’s work to be a significant contribution to the field of postcolonial studies of the Spanish Empire. Castro’s capable revisionist brush provides insight into the ways in which the life of one man can mean so much to so many people for so many reasons.” — Michael Pasquier, Interventions

“Castro is very successful in analyzing Las Casas, the man and the myth and . . . the result is an eminently readable and useful piece of scholarship. Recommended.” — R. M. Delson, Choice

“Castro provides a thorough tour of the well-worn trail of scholarship on Las Casas, along with a careful reading of the corpus of his works. . . . [A] job done well. . . . [T]his is a well-argued work demystifying Las Casas while situating him in historical context, a reality, alas, that no actual person can entirely transcend.” — James Krippner, The Americas

“Castro’s book is even more interesting for what it represents—another and not inconsequential crack in a version of history written largely by Europeans and their offspring that increasingly appears anachronistic.” — Gavin O’Toole, Latin American Review of Books

“Castro’s examination of Las Casa’s life proves illuminating. Although Las Casas spent his life as champion of the Indians, he spent little time among them. Unlike most mendicants, he never learned an indigenous language. Much of his most celebrated work on behalf of the Indians took place not in the Americas, but at court in Spain. . . . In the end, the main difference between the friar and his contemporaries is that he believed that the empire could be established by nonviolent means. Another Face of Empire makes a compelling argument and is bound to be well received.” — Tamara Spike, New Mexico Historical Review

“Daniel Castro deserves praise for the clarity and freshness of his insights on Las Casas in this book. He points out and eliminates much of the tendentiousness that so often typifies writings about the great Franciscan and thereby composes a highly useful book.” — John E. Kicza, Renaissance Quarterly

“This is an important contribution to the literature on Las Casas. It removes the halo and sees the man within the context of his time, and looks into the motivations for his actions and positions. It simply is one of the most refreshing analyses of Las Casas to have appeared in quite some time.” — John F. Schwaller, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“This thoughtful book is well worth reading. . . . [T]his book is a well-constructed, well-researched window into the world of Las Casas and how he fashioned it.” — Lawrence A. Clayton, International History Review

“While undeniably his description of Las Casas contributes to the burgeoning body of literature on the Dominican, Castro uniquely assesses the implications and ramifications of the remedies Las Casas proposed in his restorative efforts in light of the atrocities committed by the colonists and also attempts to consider how much contact Las Casas actually had with the peoples who already inhabited the Americas. . . . [T]eachers and students of missional theology and world Christianity will benefit from exposure to this alternative presentation of the life, work, and legacy of Bartolomé de Las Casas.” — C. M. Busman, Missiology

Another Face of Empire incontrovertibly adds to general understanding of Bartolomé de Las Casas. Daniel Castro persuasively argues that Las Casas contributed substantially to the establishment of Spanish imperial hegemony in the Americas in the first century after the conquests.” — Franklin W. Knight, editor of Bartolomé de Las Casas’s An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies

“Father Las Casas offered what all empires need: a sense of their own moral legitimacy. This book forthrightly unmasks the imperial gift-giver. It should be read by all colonialists and those who study human rights issues.” — Colin M. MacLachlan, John Christie Barr Distinguished Professor of History, Tulane University


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Daniel Castro is Associate Professor of History at Southwestern University. He is the editor of Revolution and Revolutionaries: Guerilla Movements in Latin America.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Bartolomé de Las Casas, Savior of Indoamerica? 1

1. Defining and Possessing 17

2. American Crucible 40

3. Conversions, Utopias, and Ecclesiastical Imperialism 63

4. Theory and Praxis 105

5. Toward a Restoration of the Indies 135

6. The Legacy of Las Casas 150

Conclusion 177

Notes 187

Bibliography 215

Index 229
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3939-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3930-4
Publicity material