In this critical analysis, I examine the social, historical, and rhetorical situation that was present when Bartolome de Las Casas used his writings to gain support for the Indians in the New World in the early part of the 16th century. I discuss and explore the following components of the rhetorical situation: the historical context associated with this text, the rhetor and his motivation for writing the text, his purpose for writing, and the intended audience. Analyzing Las Casasís text, I argue that Las Casas put forth an effective argument in his letter to the king of Spain by using ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade and convince his audience that Spanish colonists were acting in a distinctly un-christian manner in the New World.

If you write a thesis sentence with all these basic parts, you essentially have an outline for your Critical Analysis:

Historical Context:

  • What?
    • Early efforts by Spain to colonize the New World
    • Problems with the Indians
  • When and Where?
    • Spain and the New World
    • The 16th Century
  • Why?
    • Spain wanted to increase her wealth and power by setting up colonies in the New World.
    • Economic theory of Mercantilism (Wooster lecture)

Social Groups and Social Contexts:

  • Las Casas
  • Ecomenderos and Cortes
  • Indians in the New World
  • The king in Spain and the Spanish people

Primary Source Document

  • Exigence --poor treatment of the Indians by Spain
  • Motivation --Casas was driven by a religious conviction that what the Spanish colonists were doing was wrong
  • Purpose ==to convince the King and Spanish public to help the indians
  • Audience ---king and Spain
  • Ethos
  • Pathos
  • Logos