The encomienda was a system where Spanish adventurers and settlers were granted the legal right to extract forced labour from indigenous tribal chiefs in the Americas colonies of the Spanish Empire. In return, the Europeans were expected to give military protection to the labourers and offer them the opportunity to be converted to Christianity by funding a parish priest.

More about: Encomienda


  • 1502
    The encomienda system is first applied to the Americas on the island of Hispaniola.
  • 1503
    The use of the system of encomienda in the Spanish Empire receives approval from the Spanish monarchy.
  • 1512
    The Laws of Burgos set out how indigenous peoples should be treated within the Spanish Empire.
  • 1522
    Bartolomé de Las Casas writes a graphic description of the Spanish colonial encomienda system in his "A Very Brief Recital of the Destruction of the Indies".
  • 1542
    The New Laws unsuccessfully attempt to reduce the application of the encomienda system in the Spanish Empire.
  • 1573
    Philip II of Spain prohibits the application of the encomienda system in any new territories of the Spanish Empire.
  • c. 1700
    The encomienda system goes into decline in most parts of the Spanish Empire.