Iberian Antecedents

When Portuguese explorers and merchants launched the slave trade from Africa to Europe in the mid-fifteenth century, Iberian precedent already provided a host of justifications for enslavement, based in part on Roman laws concerning “just war” and the status of non-Christians. Iberian justifications for enslaving Africans were adopted in Spanish and Portuguese America, and they also informed the development of slavery in different European colonies throughout the Atlantic world. Unlike the racially stratified system of slavery that would emerge in English America, however, the presence of legal provisions in Iberian law allowed enslaved people to obtain some rights and protections from the Church or the Crown.


Las Siete Partidas (1348)

Romanus Pontifex (1455)

Inter Caetera (1493)

Requerimiento (1513)

Royal Charter of 1518

Early Spanish Slave Trade (1519/20)

Petition to the Portuguese King (1526)

New Laws of 1542

Los Tres Mulatos (1599)