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date: 13 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews scholarship on the history and historiography of slavery in the Spanish South American Mainland. The history of African slaves on the South American mainland began with the Spanish conquistadors in the early sixteenth century. Already present in the West Indies and Mexico following the Spanish conquest and settlement of those areas, slaves now became involved in the expansion of Spanish rule southward. Small numbers accompanied the conquistadors along the Pacific coast. While most of the African slaves and slaves of African descent who participated in the conquest were soon freed, thereby establishing the roots of a growing and important free coloured population, thousands more arrived in their footsteps. In the process, the role of the African slave changed significantly. Initially, the majority of the slaves had been retainers and servants of the conquistadors who used some of the looted wealth of the Incas to acquire what was essentially an expensive status symbol. And while the slave as status symbol remained a constant throughout the history of slavery in Spanish South America, the vast majority of the new imports were destined to occupy far more demanding and onerous positions as manual labourers and domestic servants.

Keywords: Spanish conquistadors, slaves, slavery, slave labour, status symbol, Spanish South America, abolition

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