Date of Graduation

Summer 2021


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

John Chuchiak


This thesis examines the evolution of the Spanish colonial legal system from 1525-1820 and analyzes the way that the indigenous Nahua people influenced, manipulated, and commanded a powerful conversation with their distant King through interactions with and within the law. By analyzing the extant Spanish colonial legal documents including court records, indigenous codices, land titles, and more, this thesis will attempt to support the theory that the indigenous people in New Spain maneuvered within the many facets of the Spanish legal system to establish themselves as powerful legal actors regaining a significant portion of the freedom taken from them during the Spanish conquest. By taking this revisionist view on the development of Spanish colonial law that focuses on the indigenous influence, the thesis presents the reader with a more comprehensive understanding of colonial development in New Spain; and a more accurate representation of how the indigenous peoples of New Spain transitioned from passive objects of conquest into active Spanish vassals and legal actors shaping, transforming, and adapting Spanish colonial law.


Nahuas, New Spain, Legal Cultures, General Indian Court, Indigenous Legal Agency

Subject Categories

Latin American History


© Micaela Wiehe

Open Access