El conocimiento de las naciones, 1599
Contributor: Pérez, Antonio, -1611
Extent: circa 700 pages
Description: Spanish stateman Antonio Pérez served as a secretary of state under Philip II before a falling out over the killing of a political rival (and, perhaps, over their rivalry for the affections of Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Éboli) in the late 1570s. After years of imprisonment, Pérez spent the last decades of his life in exile in France and England. In this long essay, Pérez chronicles the history and operations of Spain and its colonies and seems to advise the monarch on the governance of different parts of the Spanish empire. It is possible that the essay was a gambit by Pérez to either regain the favor of Philip II or gain the favor of his successor. However, given that it is dated to one year after the death of Philip II and a full two decades after relations between the two began to sour, and that Pérez's writings have been cited as contributing factors in the creation of the "Black Legend" of Spanish colonialism surrounding Philip II, it is also possible that the essay was intended for English or French patrons or as anti-Philip propaganda. This item has a complicated history, however, and some scholars have suggested that the essay has been misattributed and is actually the work of Baltasar Alamos de Barrientos, a scholar and friend of Pérez who was imprisoned because of that friendship. In any case, it is unclear to what extent the author wrote (or wrote knowledgeably) about indigenous peoples of the Americas, or upon which groups he commented, but given his subject it is likely that he noted legal status, laws, treatment, and other aspects related to their status as subject peoples of Spain in the sixteenth century.
Collection: El conocimiento de las naciones, 1599 Mss.320.P41