An attempt to protect the rights and freedoms of the indigenous peoples: the first laws passed by the Spaniards in the New World

Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection)

1513

Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection)

Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection)

— 1513

  1. Spanish clergymen operating in the New World objected to the brutal treatment of the so-called “Indios”

  2. Upon hearing of these abuses, King Ferdinand II (1452-1516) commissioned a team of scholars to address the issue

  3. They recommended a series of laws to govern behavior in the colonies as well as Christianizing the indigenous population

Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection)

Indiferente General, leg. 419, lib. IV and Patronato, legajo 174 ramo 1 Archivo General de Indias (Seville, Spain)
Alternative Titles:
  • Gesetze von Burgos und Valladolid
Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection)  – Indiferente General, leg. 419, lib. IV and Patronato, legajo 174 ramo 1 – Archivo General de Indias (Seville, Spain)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Spanish conquest and colonization of Central and South America was a violent series of events ending in the subjugation of the indigenous population. The so-called “Indios” were initially treated with tremendous brutality because, as pagans, they were deemed unworthy of Christian mercy. Furthermore, the laws of Castile were not in effect in the New World, and thus the only law in the colonies were the Conquistadores, who had absolute power. The Spanish clergymen that were operating there objected to this inhumane treatment. King Ferdinand II of Aragon was outraged upon hearing of what was happening and commissioned a team of scholars to resolve the issue. The set of laws they drafted represents the first attempt to protect the rights of indigenous peoples by a colonizing power, firstly by converting them to Christianity.

Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection)

On December 27th, 1512 in Burgos, Crown of Castile, the first laws governing Spaniards in the New World were passed, the Leyes de Burgos or "Laws of Burgos". Specifically, the law addressed the mistreatment of the indigenous peoples there and set to regulate the behavior of Spanish colonists in relation to them. The Indios were to be converted, and as Christians their rights would be enshrined in law. Attempts were made to accommodate local authorities while outlawing practices deemed unacceptable by the Spaniards, such as bigamy. The Encomienda system, whereby groups of Indios ranging from 40 to 150 people worked for pay under a colonial head, was formalized. Furthermore, regulations were specified regarding their work regimen, pay, living quarters, and hygienic standards.

For the Protection of the Indios

This legal document was later appended with four more laws, which were enacted on July 28th, 1513, known as the Leyes Complementarias de Valladolid 1513 or “Complementary Laws of Valladolid 1513”. These changes reflected the objections of Spanish theologians and the Catholic clergy to the handling of women and children in particular. Despite the good intentions of these laws, they were not always enforceable due to the great power that the ruling Conquistadores had over the respective local populations. This led to protests and claims that in turn led to more reforms to protect the rights of the Indios with stricter regulations concerning life in the New World. Nonetheless, they represent the earliest attempt to protect the rights of the newly-conquered peoples of the Americas.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Gesetze von Burgos und Valladolid
Date
1513
Language

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection) “

Leyes de Burgos de 1512 y Leyes de Valladolid de 1513
Laws of Burgos and Valladolid (Collection)  – Indiferente General, leg. 419, lib. IV and Patronato, legajo 174 ramo 1 – Archivo General de Indias (Seville, Spain)
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Leyes de Burgos de 1512 y Leyes de Valladolid de 1513

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete.
Publisher
Egeria, S.L. – Madrid, 1991
Limited Edition
750
Commentary
1 volume by Maria L. Martinez de Salinas, Rogelio Perez Bustamante
Language: English, Spanish
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