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A Free Reading Passage on Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 20

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Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda is a referenced topic in the Cultural Interactions Between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda portrait
Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda/public domain

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda was a Spanish philosopher, theologian, and historian, best known for his defense of Spanish colonization and conquest in the Americas. Born in 1494 in Pozoblanco, Spain, Sepúlveda studied at the prestigious University of Alcalá and later in Italy, where he was deeply influenced by Renaissance humanism and the works of Aristotle.


Sepúlveda is most famous for his role in the debates over the treatment of indigenous people in the New World. As a staunch advocate for the Spanish Empire’s right to conquer and rule over native populations, he believed that it was not only justified but necessary for the Spanish to bring civilization and Christianity to the Americas. In his 1544 book, “Democrates Alter,” Sepúlveda argued that the indigenous people were naturally inferior and that their subjugation was justified to correct their supposed moral and cultural deficiencies.


His views came to a head in the famous Valladolid debates of 1550-1551, where he faced off against Bartolomé de las Casas, a fellow Spaniard and Dominican friar who argued passionately for the humane treatment of indigenous peoples. Sepúlveda defended the Spanish conquest, asserting that the natives were barbaric and that their conquest and conversion were beneficial for their own good. He claimed that war against them was just and necessary to spread Christianity and European civilization.

Sepúlveda was also engaged in intellectual disputes with significant figures of his time, including Martin Luther and Erasmus of Rotterdam. Martin Luther, a German theologian, initiated the Protestant Reformation, challenging the Catholic Church’s practices and doctrines. Sepúlveda vehemently opposed Luther’s views, defending the authority of the Catholic Church and its traditions. Erasmus, a Dutch Renaissance humanist, theologian, and scholar, advocated for religious tolerance and reform within the Church. Sepúlveda criticized Erasmus for his calls for moderation and reform, arguing that they weakened the Church’s unity and authority.


In addition to his involvement in these theological debates, Sepúlveda urged Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to unite Christian Europe against the Ottoman Turks. He saw the Turks as a significant threat to Christendom and believed that a united front was essential to defend Europe from their expansion. Sepúlveda’s call for unity was part of his broader vision of a strong, unified Christian world, capable of spreading its values and protecting its interests.


Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda died in 1573 in Madrid, Spain. Although his views did not ultimately prevail in Spanish policy, his writings provide a window into the mindset of many European intellectuals during the Age of Exploration. His arguments reflect the complexities and moral dilemmas faced by European societies as they expanded their empires and encountered diverse cultures and peoples around the world.


Printable Reading Passage on Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda

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Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda FREE Reading Passage


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Cultural Interactions Between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans 



Period 1



AP U.S. History




Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda



Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 20

4

0

0

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