Bárbaros Spaniards and Their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment David J. Weber

The Lamar Series in Western History
Publication date:
28 Nov 2006
Yale University Press
480 pages: 254 x 178mm
41 b-w illus.

A majestic exploration of Bourbon Spain’s efforts to come to terms with the native peoples of the Americas, from Argentina to Alaska

Two centuries after Cortés and Pizarro seized the Aztec and Inca empires, Spain’s conquest of America remained unfinished. Indians retained control over most of the lands in Spain’s American empire. Mounted on horseback, savvy about European ways, and often possessing firearms, independent Indians continued to find new ways to resist subjugation by Spanish soldiers and conversion by Spanish missionaries.

In this panoramic study, David J. Weber explains how late eighteenthcentury Spanish administrators tried to fashion a more enlightened policy toward the people they called bárbaros, or “savages.” Even Spain’s most powerful monarchs failed, however, to enforce a consistent, well-reasoned policy toward Indians. At one extreme, powerful independent Indians forced Spaniards to seek peace, acknowledge autonomous tribal governments, and recognize the existence of tribal lands, fulfilling the Crown’s oft-stated wish to use “gentle” means in dealing with Indians. At the other extreme the Crown abandoned its principles, authorizing bloody wars on Indians when Spanish officers believed they could defeat them. Power, says Weber, more than the power of ideas, determined how Spaniards treated “savages” in the Age of Enlightenment.

DAVID J. WEBER is Dedman Professor of History and director of the William P. Clements Center for Southwestern Studies at Southern Methodist University. He is the author or editor of more than sixty scholarly articles and twenty-two books.

'...[Weber's] mastery of both the primary and secondary sources and the more recent secondary literature makes this a fine study...' - Christopher Storrs, History: Journal of the Historical Association