Transforming Bondsmen into Vassals: Arming Slaves in Colonial Spanish America

TitleTransforming Bondsmen into Vassals: Arming Slaves in Colonial Spanish America
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsLanders, Jane
EditorBrown, Christopher Leslie, and Philip D. Morgan
Book TitleArming Slaves: From Classical Times to the Modern Age
Pagination120 - 145
PublisherYale University Press
CityNew Haven, CT

Of all the nations in Europe, it was Spain which was most dependent on the military employment of slaves throughout its history. Armed military service in defense of the Spanish Crown provided a way for slaves to gain freedom. As one of the best in the world, the early modern Spanish army was significantly heterogeneous, incorporating volunteers and mercenaries of different nationalities as well as free and enslaved Africans to accomplish its early conquests. This chapter examines the arming of slaves, who were transformed from bondsmen into free vassals, to fortify colonial Spanish America's military campaigns against indigenous populations. It looks at the use of enslaved blacks to explore and expand Spanish frontiers throughout the Americas, to help Spain defend the Caribbean, and to fight against escaped slaves. It also discusses Cuba's creation of militias of free men of color, the rise to power of the French Bourbons, the use of slave soldiers in eighteenth-century Cuba, Spain's deployment of black militias to fight in various revolutions, and the black auxiliaries of Spanish King Carlos IV.

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