Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo

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Gold-panning Indians. Woodcut from the Historia General y Natural de las Indias by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (* 1478 in Madrid , † 1557 in Valladolid ) was a Spanish historian and statesman . He is considered the most important chronicler of the conquest of South America by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century .


The son of wealthy parents, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo grew up at the court of Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabella I of Castile and at the age of thirteen became squire of the Spanish heir to the throne, John , Prince of Asturias. As such, he was involved in the siege of Granada and met Columbus before he set off on his journey.

After the Infante's death in October 1497, he went to Italy and became secretary to Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba . In 1514 he was appointed overseer of the gold smelting of Santo Domingo , and on his return in 1523 he took the post of royal reporter for the West Indies . His task was to clarify the actual political and economic conditions in the colonies, which were often glossed over in the reports of the conquistadors , and to inform the authorities about them. In this capacity he made five long trips to the New World in the later years. In 1526 he took over the office of governor of Antigua . From 1535 to 1545 he was in command of the fortifications of Santo Domingo. At the age of 67 he returned to Spain to complete his life's work, the Historia de las Indias .

The first part of this work was published in 1535 under the title Historia general y natural de las Indias . A second, revised edition appeared in 1547 under the title Coronica de las Indias. La hystoria general de las Indias y con la Conquista del Perú .

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo died in Valladolid in 1557 at the age of 79.

The Historia general y natural de las Indias and other writings

The complete works of the Historia were published by the Spanish Academy of History from 1851 to 1855. Although written in an opaque style, it contains a lot of noteworthy firsthand information. The incomplete edition, published in Seville , reached a large readership in its English and French translations of Eden and Poleur (1555 and 1556). According to Bartolomé de Las Casas , it contains “as many lies as there are pages”, and Oviedo undoubtedly comments benevolently on the actions of his compatriots; but along with patriotic tendencies too obvious to lead to misunderstanding, his descriptions are trustworthy and interesting.

In his Quinquagenas he indulges in rumors about famous contemporaries; this collection of curious and moralizing anecdotes was only published in Madrid in 1880 by Vincente de la Fuente.


“Because they could not find anything to eat when they arrived, some of these Christians, starving to death, killed an Indian they had captured and toasted the offal and ate it; and they cooked part of the Indian in a large pot to take some food with them on the ship. ”( Historia general y natural de las Indias , 1535)

Dedication names

Charles Plumier named a genus Valdia of the iridaceae plant family in his honor . Carl von Linné later changed this name to Ovieda .


  • Claribalte (Valencia, 1519)
  • La Historia de las cosas sucedidas en mi tiempo en America (Toledo, 1526)
  • Historia general y natural de las Indias Occidentales, islas y tierra firme del Mar Oceano (Seville, 1535)
  • Tratado del palo Guayacan y del palo Santo como antidoto contra la sifilis
  • Navegacion del Rio Maranón
  • Las Quinquagenas de la nobleza de España

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Coronica de las Indias. La hystoria general de las Indias y con la Conquista del Perú , formal indexing and subject indexing of the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, accessed on November 23, 2018.
  2. ^ Charles Plumier: Nova Plantarum Americanarum Genera . Leiden 1703, p. 11
  3. ^ Carl von Linné: Critica Botanica . Leiden 1737, p. 93
  4. Carl von Linné: Genera Plantarum . Leiden 1742, p. 295