Richard White Middle Ground Thesis

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Because “it had no legal basis, it was never formally abolished like African slavery,” the “other slavery” continued well into the 20th century.

Reséndez launches his thesis with a bang that might (and probably should) upset the most widely held idea about the colonization of the New World: That as bad as the Spanish, Portuguese and later the English were, most Indians died from diseases against which most had no immunity, which was no one’s fault.

The perpetrators of this regime included explorers such as Cortes (the owner of the largest number of slaves in Mexico), territorial governors of New Mexico and U. Conflicts, such as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, were in large part spurred by the ceaseless capture and conscription of Indians from all over New Mexico for export to the silver mines of Mexico.

Reséndez doesn’t spare the reader the shock of seeing a whole system of settlement, colonialism and capitalism that was built around the institution of the enslavement of Indians.

The disease probably spread more slowly than previously thought.

Meanwhile, an institution was put in place almost immediately that had grave consequences for Indians in the New World: slavery.

While the archaeological record suggests that slavery between tribes existed before the coming of Europeans, their arrival transformed it and made it so widespread as to leave no part of North America untouched.

The “other slavery” shaped the shared history of Mexico and later the United States, and was so deeply entrenched that it was ignored.

Lest this carefully researched and compelling book make readers feel bad about every aspect of the settlement of the New World, the conclusion should make us feel bad and think hard about our own times as well.

The “old slavery” based on the legal ownership of certain racial groups had been, for quite some time, replaced with a kind of “new slavery” based less on race and without legal standing and more on economic vulnerability: mechanisms of control meant to deprive workers of their freedom in order to extract their labor.


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