Global Indios

The Indigenous Struggle for Justice in Sixteenth-Century Spain

Global Indios

Narrating Native Histories

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 5 illustrations Published: April 2015

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies

In the sixteenth century hundreds of thousands of indios—indigenous peoples from the territories of the Spanish empire—were enslaved and relocated throughout the Iberian world. Although various laws and decrees outlawed indio enslavement, several loopholes allowed the practice to continue. In Global Indios Nancy E. van Deusen documents the more than one hundred lawsuits between 1530 and 1585 that indio slaves living in Castile brought to the Spanish courts to secure their freedom. Because plaintiffs had to prove their indio-ness in a Spanish imperial context, these lawsuits reveal the difficulties of determining who was an indio and who was not—especially since it was an all-encompassing construct connoting subservience and political personhood and at times could refer to people from Mexico, Peru, or South or East Asia. Van Deusen demonstrates that the categories of free and slave were often not easily defined, and she forces a rethinking of the meaning of indio in ways that emphasize the need to situate colonial Spanish American indigenous subjects in a global context.


"Weaving names and fragments of lives into a richly textured narrative, Van Deusen does justice to their stories, placing the reader in the heart of the empire, facing its darkest moment."  — Kathryn Lehman, AlterNative

"This book offers many interesting insights into the experiences of indio slaves and servants who ended up in Castile." — Ida Altman, American Historical Review

"Van Deusen concentrates her attention on the microcosm of a village society in the area of Seville and on the part played in it by indios imported from America, but she also gives consideration to the indio menials of the New World and to the Asian context from which some slaves were drawn. The evidence throws light mainly on the southern part of Castile, but the book’s perspective is global, sophisticated, admirable, and pathbreaking." — Henry Kamen, Common Knowledge

"Nancy van Deusen has written a masterpiece of early modern ethnohistory that brings to light a veritable diaspora of indigenous slaves in Spain, while expanding the meaning of indio as a global and changing identifier constructed outside the colonial confines of America." — Alcira Dueñas, Hispanic American Historical Review

"I consider van Deusen’s work to be highly relevant for legal historians interested in interdisciplinary approaches, for example, by taking a bottom-up perspective, or for cultural and social historians who are interested in understanding past legal orders. Needless to say, her work makes a substantial contribution to the historiography about the Spanish and Portuguese empires in a global perspective, and about the indigenous people placed under its authority." — Karla Luzmer Escobar Hernández, H-Law, H-Net Reviews

[T]hese chapters paint an elegant canvas, carefully foregrounding the meticulousness of [van Deusen's] records against a well-rendered background of imperial structure and ideology." — Brian P. Owensby, Ethnohistory

"This meticulously researched and thoughtfully argued volume provides an accomplished historian’s analysis of the implications of enslaved American indigenous peoples, or indios, efforts in Spain to obtain or regain their freedom through the judicial system. . . . Solidly based on archival research and a rich secondary literature, this book offers a fascinating perspective on the Spanish monarchy’s evolving policy toward its indios in the 16th century, as well as the varied understanding of what indio meant in an interconnected globe. Essential. Most college and university libraries." — M. A. Burkholder, Choice

"It is not every historian who can hold the focus on an individual's thoughts and stories as well as on their larger significance at the same time, but van Deusen has done the job." — Camilla Townsend, Journal of Social History

"Global Indios will prompt historians and scholars in other fields to rethink crucial themes around the beginnings of Spanish colonialism and beyond in a new light: the meaning of indio, the complex form in which many social relations were created and cemented, the shaping of ideas about race, the idea of justice as a universal value, and how pertinent it is to think of the concept of global history at this early stage. This book is indeed a major contribution to the historiography on colonialism." — Gabriela Ramos, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Van Deusen’s book offers a breath of fresh air in a literature that took categories such as 'Indian' for granted assuming that their meaning, employment, and even birth were obvious. She wonderfully reconstructs the complexities of the past clearly and forcefully, giving an important reflection on how engagement with empire affected Castilians. . . . What we find here is a beautiful depiction of a plethora of individuals who, in the process of pursuing their own agenda, gradually and haphazardly, also constructed what we now call 'the state.' All these characteristics make this book a 'must' read and an example to follow." — Tamar Herzog, EIAL

"Nancy van Deusen’s study of indio-ness in the courtroom makes a substantial contribution to the ethno-historical study of slavery. More specifically, her book marks the beginning of a more ambitious perspective that pokes holes in the alleged parochialism of indigenous historical actors. . . . Van Deusen’s is required reading for everyone interested in the history of racial thought." — Justin Heath, Not Even Past

"[T]his is a necessary study, and it tells a story that needs to be told. As we learn here, the indios' talking-back voices were filtered and silenced, but that does not mean they were not there. Their words, like van Deusen surely proves with her own, 'are not empty words.'" — Silvia Martínez-Falquina, Transmotion

"[V]an Deusen’s book is especially timely. As we struggle through a period of heightened scrutiny on migration and personhood, it is helpful to look back on similar episodes from the past to see how we might act differently. Van Deusen’s work, then, not only provides fascinating insights into a turbulent and formative period in Western history, but provides a lens through which we can critically consider our current situation as well." — Stanton Kidd, AmeriQuests

"The extensive bibliography of contemporary sources, the impressive depth of primary archival documents, and the far-reaching questions addressed in Global Indios make this book of great interest to scholars from across disciplines, from history, cultural geography, and ethnohistory to law, religion, and art history." — Linda K. Williams, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Global Indios is an erudite and well-researched book that offers a great contribution to the study of indigenous slavery in early modern Spain, the Spanish legal system, and the development of imperial identities." — Yanay Israeli, Journal of Early Modern History

"Overall, van Deusen’s narrative is well organized, cohesive, and flows well both thematically and temporally. The one disconnect present in the book, and where van Deusen overextends her argument, is in the final chapter where she moves well beyond her original geographical bounds of the Atlantic World.  . . . Though this is indeed possible, van Deusen does not fully develop this thesis, at least through the examples included in her final chapter. Other than this minor critique, the book is an excellent piece of scholarship. The work is thoroughly researched in archives across both Spain and the Americas. It will contribute to scholarship of the Atlantic World, colonial Latin America, indigenous slavery, and ethnohistory." — Erin W. Stone, The Historian

“An historian’s historian, van Deusen makes broad connections and speaks to a range of historiographical questions, making Global Indios a must read for anyone interested in the Early Modern World.” — Heather R. Peterson, Journal of World History

“Van Deusen’s book is a stellar and stimulating piece of important world-historical research. . . . This book is an essential point of reference for all serious investigations into the importance of ‘Indianness’ as an early modern construct with world-historical consequences.” — Fabio López Lázaro, Bulletin of Spanish Studies

"Global Indios shatters and resignifies the category of indio, a term that has provided—along with 'Spaniard'—the foundations of scholarship on colonial Latin America. It forces readers to rethink Spanish America as something that extends beyond the Western Hemisphere and that can really only be adequately comprehended in the context of the movement of peoples and the clash of empires."
  — Joanne Rappaport, author of The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial Andes

"Global Indios makes very important contributions to literatures of slavery, the history of indigenous peoples, and transatlantic and global history. Nancy E. van Deusen contributes to our understanding of the emergence of a key colonial category, indio/india, and its repercussions. She helps us see how the legal struggles of those held in slavery contributed to the winding down of decades of unchecked enslavement of hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples in the Americas. This is slavery as many readers won't have imagined it."
  — Kathryn Burns, author of Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nancy E. van Deusen is Professor of History at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. She is the author of Between the Sacred and the Worldly: The Institutional and Cultural Practice of Recogimiento in Colonial Lima and The Souls of Purgatory: The Spiritual Diary of a Seventeenth-Century Afro-Peruvian Mystic, Ursula de Jesús.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

1. All the World in a Village: Carmona 34

2. Crossing the Atlantic and Entering Households 64

3. Small Victories? Gregorio López and the Reforms of the 1540s 99

4. Into the Courtroom 125

5. Narratives of Territorial Belonging, Just War, and Ransom 147

6. Identifying Indios 169

7. Transimperial Indios  192

Conclusions 219

Notes 231

Bibliography 289

Index  319

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5858-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5847-3
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