Indian slavery in 16th century New Spain: the politics and power of bondage, 1519-1600



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This Master’s Report explores how in the 16th century, Spaniards manufactured a war for profit. The Chichimec War they created depended on the continuance of slavery. Since their arrival in New Spain, they influenced the writing and application of law in the colony. A policy-making relationship developed between bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, and those responsible for the implementation of decrees. Bondage as the background to topics, such as war, natives, religion, law, and economy, is useful because it allows for these tropes of history to interact in significantly original ways. The analytical edge of this report is to trace how native slavery developed, and this is done by juxtaposing the general thrust of laws for and against slavery, against the up and downs of wars versus natives, some of which became subsumed under the rubric Chichimec War. This story is another example of Indian slavery complicating accepted narratives, and wedges itself into the recent narrative and themes presented by the historians of Indian slavery.