Imperial violence and the limits of tolerance: Reading luther with las casas

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1 Scopus citations


At the same time that Spain and Portugal were devising practices of conquest in the New World, areas of East Central Europe were faced with invasions from the Ottoman empire. The hostilities between Ottoman and European troops escalated in the early sixteenth century, with substantial terror inicted upon the populations of East Central Europe. Meanwhile, reports about the atrocities committed by Europeans during the conquest of the Americas began to surface in Europe. This chapter considers these two hostile interactions, one taking place in the Caribbean and in Central and South America, and the other in East Central Europe, in order to ask questions about how these distinct engagements with other cultures and empires shaped European approaches to cultural and religious difference. In particular, the focus of this investigation turns to sixteenth-century discussions regarding the deployment of state violence, in one case for the purpose of defence, in the other as part of a conquest with presumably humanitarian dimensions. What happens when we read Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) treatises about war against the Ottoman invaders in the early sixteenth century alongside a corpus of texts that is widely considered as articulating the rst critique of genocide, namely, the writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484-1566)? How does the critique of the violence inicted on the indigenous populations of the newly ‘discovered’ Americas resonate with accounts of the Ottoman treatment of conquered European peoples? How do the arguments against state violence that were voiced by the Catholic priest compare to those in support of state violence that were brought forth by the advocate of Reformation? What insights can be gained from this kind of comparative reading, especially with regard to Europe’s views of its Others?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarly Modern Constructions of Europe
Subtitle of host publicationLiterature, Culture, History
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781317394921
ISBN (Print)9781138931596
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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