Publication Title

Colonial Latin American Review

Document Type


Department or Program


Second Department or Program

Latin American Studies

Publication Date



Karen Melvin discusses how the plight of Spaniards kidnapped into Muslim slavery in North Africa depended on members of the Mercedarian Order that took a sacred oath common among religious orders to redeem Christian captives. The order supported campaigns against Muslims by serving as priests in armies and by collecting alms and moving to enemy territory to redeem captives. Karen feels that the possible explanation for the increase in ransoming expeditions during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries might be response to demand if the number of Europeans being taken captive was also rising. Mercedarian appeals for alms in New Spain kept their focus on this conflict instead of its prisoners of war. Captives were a peripheral part of the message. Residents of the New World did not need to have personal acquaintance with captives to care about their struggle that was finally about neither slavery nor captivity.

Required Publisher's Statement

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Colonial Latin American Review in 2009, available online: