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CHAPTER 6 Some Thoughts on the Pax Colonial, Colonial Violence, and Perceptions of Both MURDO J. MACLEOD. Those who have written about colonialism and imperialism have been over- whelmingly unfriendly to these alien and invasive systems of domination, but many of these scholars have assumed and stated that, despite imposi- tions and oppressions, these regimes brought peace, often centuries of it. From the Pax Romana, through the Pax Hispanica, to the more contempo- rary Pax Britannica and Pax Americana, western historiography has gener- ally agreed that the great colonial empires, after bloody initial conquests, stamped out the tribal, petty state and internecine warfare that characterized many of the precolonial areas. Explanations for these long years of apparent peace have been varied. ‘The existence of one large polity in the place of several small ones is the most obvious. Others stress that these colonial regimes were better organized, compared at least to their predecessors, as far as the display and application of power were concerned. Moreover, they were more advanced militarily and administratively, and they knew how to use local, ethnic, or specialized elites as brokers—divide and rule—in a somewhat decentralized, federative structure. In general, although many imposed institutions and practices were disliked or even hated by the subject peoples, some observers believe that the colonial peace and other advantages were such that, on balance, they outweighed, at least for some of the conquered groups, the risks of re- volt and the possibilities of future alternative forms of government. The long-lasting colonial empires, then, established peace and hegemony by a blend of monopoly of violence and potential for coercion, plus just enough legitimacy to persuade some of the dominated to accept or acquiesce to the status quo when weighed against the alternatives. BO * MURDO J. MACLEOD Some students of these matters have questioned this description of the colonial Pax. Most warfare, they say, is not civil or internal but rather on the geopolitical frontiers or close to them, where rival groups, tribes, nations, and states meet and compete for resources and space. Thus colonial empires do not reduce warfare, this argument goes, but merely send it to more dis- tant locations because of the very size of these empires. Just as these large empires displace warfare rather than reducing it, so 100, itis asserted, with the chronology and periodization of warfare. It may well be that, when added together, the violence of the wars of conquest and inevitably, sometimes centuries later, of the wars of imperial dissolution, is as destructive, bloody, and death-dealing as all that of the petty correspond- ing temporal period before and aftet the empires were created Still others, notably Frantz Fanon, have pointed out that violence is not always overt and that warfare in precolonial eras had important political and symbolic functions. Specifically, colonialism creates its own types of severe psychic damage—certainly a violence even if of another kind—whereas the wars that wracked many precolonial areas produced surprisingly few casu- alties, were of a seasonal nature, and frequently had to do with securing in- ternal peace and reasserting the social order within each polity. In short, Fanon and his disciples would claim that the colonial regimes with which he engages brought a psychic graveyard and an end to complexities of ritual and aggression, some of which was socially healthy, and called it peace.? Close to the above views are those who assert that all monopolies, even when apparently successful, inevitably cause dialectical responses. By mo- nopolizing violence and the potential for coercion, the large colonial em- pires may have created a great, widespread peace within their boundaries at the imperial level, but they probably also created a series of violent reactions and alternatives below that level. Driven down the social ladder and even underground by the colonial Pax, this violence is often hard to discern be- cause the activities of the poor and oppressed are frequently not well re- ported, and much “criminal” activity, apart from general reports to the cen- ter from senior officials, is usually documented only when the accused are brought before justice. Note that here and there I have deliberately shifted the discussion from overt or recognized warfare between large and distinct entities to general vi- lence, To write of a centuries-long, pervasive peace, after all, is to make claims not only about an absence of warfare but also about a diminution or even absence of violence within the territories governed by the colonial re- gime. Note also that so far I have avoided distinguishing between general or political violence on the one hand and criminal violence on the other. Al- THOUGHTS ON THE PAX COLONIAL AND VIOLENCE * 131 though at times one must accept the definitions of the period under study, fuste de mieux, one must also remember that these categories are ones made by the governmental forces that created the legal system. Furthermore, al- though the distinction between a murder related to simple theft and one re~ lated toa struggle over land may seem categorically clear to us today, when it comes to such events in distant times it is simply impossible to peer through the screen thrown up by official reporting of such events and to decide which was criminal and which was more political or social in its motivations. Let us now consider the Spanish American colonial empire within the general debates described above. The empire certainly created a polity larger than any previously known in the Americas. Its administrative abilities and military technology were also, in most ways, manifestly superior to those of the predecessor states of Mesoamerica and the Andes. After all, the Span- iards won and then set up a regime that lasted about three centuries. Elite groups such as the creoles and, at a lower level, Indian village leaders and free black mayordomos (overseers) and managers were used as brokers or even administrators in a society in which the outreach of the early nation- state was such that it had to ensure the allegiance of other groups in order to do its governing and exercise its social control. The church, too, with its support from the state and its widespread moral and coercive message of obedience to Christian and Spanish laws, was of great importance. In other words, the empire found or coopted or created groups, even among the op- pressed, who accepted its legitimacy and found the imperial system, on bal- ance, to be more tolerable, given real risks and possibilities, than any imag- ined alternatives.* ‘The arguments against the existence of a colonial Pax Hispanica can also be designed to resemble those raised against the general concept of long co- lonial and imperial calms. Although warfare within the areas that became the Spanish domains seemingly decreased, was it because it was deflected to more distant peripheries? There was constant unrest on the northern desert frontiers of New Spain. The Indian state in the Petén lasted until the last years of the seventeenth century, in spite of repeated missionary expeditions and armed entradas (expeditions). The dreaded sambos-mosquitos of the Ca- ribbean shore of Central America carried out hundreds of raids, allied with the English in Jamaica, and actually pushed back the Spanish frontier in parts of Nicaragua in the seventeenth century. The Jesuits in Ecuador with- drew from their missions on the Amazon slopes after years of violence there. On the Chaco frontier and on the pampas, intermittent warfare dragged on for most of the colonial period, and the Araucanians of southern Chile were defeated finally by the Chilean national state.5 If we consider the essays in