Miroslav М. Popović, Davor Petrović

Christia n World of European West and the Native Americans in the Context of the Las Casas– Sepulveda Debate (1550–1551)

pages: 533-552


During the last two decades, modern anthropology and historiography both had tendencies to revise the standpoint that the „discovery“ of America is one of the „highlights“ of mankind. Genocide committed over Native Americans („Indians“) was justified with an idea of „progress“ in the name of which millions have been sacrificed. Today, there are opinions that these sacrifices must be put in the right place and context. Much attention is given to cultural relativism, as well as to understanding and accepting the Other with all his differences, and, at the same time, to „discovering“ of ourselves through the Other.

The great debate between Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda within the Roman Catholic Church, took place during the 1550 and 1551. It was the first and the last case that the nation of colonizers opened a formal investigation about the justness of its method of spreading the Empire. The investigation had been led about the question of justness of declaring war to Native Americans before they were taught about Christian faith. Two sides based their arguments on the Bible, teachings of the Holy Fathers, late- medieval thought and the laws of that time. The result of the debate is still not quite clear, because both sides claimed they won in it.

The discovery of America in 1492 played the key role in the development of European humanistic thought. Before this event, on the opposite hemisphere nations who did not know for each other lived for centuries. Their encounter was dramatic for both sides, and its consequences were far-reaching. It was an encounter of „new worlds“ in an already existing one. New streams of thought derived from this encounter and different practices were established. Among them were the negative ones, like genocide, ethnocide and various forms of slavery, but there was also a comprehension that all people are basically the same, though they differ in their appearance and way of life.




272-1:929 Сепулведа Х.

272-725:929 Лас Касас Б.



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