Reviewed in The Journal of Modern History © 1978.
The Valladolid debate (1550–1551) was the first moral debate in European history to discuss the rights and treatment of a colonized people by colonizers. Held in the Colegio de San Gregorio, in the Spanish city of Valladolid, it was a moral and theological debate about the colonization of the Americas, its justification for the conversion to Catholicism and more specifically about the relations between the European settlers and the natives of the New World. It consisted of a number of opposing views about the way natives were to be integrated into colonial life, their conversion to Christianity and their rights and obligations. A controversial theologian, Dominican friar and Bishop of Chiapas Bartolomé de las Casas, argued that the Amerindians were free men in the natural order despite their practice of human sacrifices and other such customs, deserving the same consideration as the colonizers. Opposing this view were a number of scholars and priests including humanist scholar Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, who argued that the human sacrifice of innocents, cannibalism, and other such "crimes against nature" were unacceptable and should be suppressed by any means possible including war.