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Missionary Violence Detailed Essay Plan Notes

History Notes > Conquest and Colonisation: Spain and America Notes

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Essay Plan: 'What explains missionary violence in the New World?


Define missionary violence: from beating and whipping to outright torture during the inquisitions in Yucatan 1562 4,500 tortured, 157 died, 13 suicide, 18 disappeared. Could also be interpreted as violent action towards native structures such as the demolition of temples, holy places, relics or the imposition of forced labour, physical strain. Conversion campaigns become more and more brutal as the period progresses, coercive power of the word gives way to punitive means. Reasons mainly fall into two categories: due to the failure of other methods, and due to attitudes towards the Indians


Reasons:Evolution of methods/ failure of early ones. First conversion campaigns rely heavily on the power of the Christian message, confidence in 'the truth will set you free'. Friars confident of the positive response the natives should have. Motolinia writes of the 'great importunity' with which the Indians come for baptism and their zeal to learn Ave Maria. Incidences that imply that early Indian love for the friars eg 1569 in Tenochtitlan, entire Indian congregation rose up against the secular clergy sent by the viceroy to say mass where the Franciscans had.Apostolic 12 come to Mexico in 1524, many learn native languages, record native culture, bring with them Erasmian humanism in seeking to inculcate literacy and Hispanic values through schooling (eg colegio de Santa Cruz). Have a providential view of conversion, native religion as tools and building blocks for Christianisation, shifting of existing beliefs into Christian paradigms. However, this soon changes to a view that native religion but a demonic mockery of Christianity, cultural gap too wide to bridge eg Quetzlcoatl being refashioned as apostle Thomas, cult of the mother goddess Tonatzin as transferred to the Virgin MaryAlso quick to destroy any native temples or holy relics (eg Pizarro's destruction of the temple pyramid Pachacamac), tabula rasa effect which at first sees success, as overt aspects of Christian religion act as a replacements for community aspects of native religion eg church going, ceremonies, processions. Violent destruction thus a means of conversionAs early as 1530s the church executed an Indian idolater from Texcoco, condemned another to lifetime imprisonment, and tortured another with water and garrotte. More commonly, records of routine beatings and imprisonments in the doctrinas, and likely that things that went unrecorded too. The Inquisition only formally instituted in New Spain in 1571, but this is not to say violence did not form part of the missionary struggle from the outset. Only in the 16 th century were church jails forbidden by royal order, but still found in evidence in some doctrinas until the late 17th c. Shows that the orders felt it a necessary measure.

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