Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550-1850

Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550-1850

Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550-1850

Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550-1850


Colonial Lives offers a rich variety of archival documents in translation which bring to life the political and economic workings of Latin American colonies during 300 years of Spanish rule, as well as the day-to-day lives of the colonies' inhabitants. Intended to complement textbooks such as Burkholder and Johnson's Colonial Latin America by presenting students with primary sources -- the raw materials on which the facts in other textbooks are based -- this reader strives to illustrate the impact of issues such as race, class, gender, sexuality,culture and religion in the daily lives of both natives and colonists alike. The concerns, struggles and perspectives of the inhabitants of colonial Latin America are reflected in transcripts of civil and criminal court cases, administrative reviews, ecclesiastical investigations, Inquisitiontrials, wills, and letters the editors have included in this reader. Each document is prefaced by an introduction that places it in the social and political context of the period. The book also includes a glossary of terms and lists of suggested further readings. Most uniquely, the book offers helpful thematic cross-referencing sections and an index of themes whichallow instructors to easily adapt the book to their courses and to assign readings according to the criteria of their own specific curriculums.


This book began with the almost daily conversations of two colleagues who share a common campus, similar intellectual interests, and often the same students. It evolved into a project when we decided to co-edit a collective work that would offer a new way of looking at, thinking about, and interpreting colonial Latin American history. The documents we and our contributors have assembled reflect a wide range of current research interests; none have been published in English before. Each is accompanied by an introduction and supplementary notes, providing enough context and commentary to allow you, the student reader, to engage in historical analysis.

We put together Colonial Lives for three reasons. First, we noticed that many of the surprising, provocative, and even mundane materials that historians currently work with are simply not available to you. As a result, you rarely get a chance to see how general statements are built up from primary materials, and seldom if ever do you see how particular documents may be read to question received wisdom or to add to it.

Second, we wanted to create ways for you to do history, not merely to read it. The analysis of these documents will involve you in the kind of critical readingthe drawing out and making sense of nuance, variation, and specificity of detail and situation- that is so essential to the historian’s craft. This kind of interpretive reading will also give you the material and the skills to engage in a critical dialogue with textbooks, which must omit or subsume a good deal of detail in their synthetic summaries.

Third, we wished to expose you to the dramas of ordinary people who lived in the colonial era. These narratives are not only engaging in and of themselves; they also give vivid glimpses of the profound impact of economic, ecological, religious, and cultural processes. However important the abstractions that define political systems, social organization, and economic practice, we can perhaps best engage these broader generalities as they intersect with the lives of individuals. Thus, an apparently simple story of an insult, a seduction, or a homicide can tell us a . . .

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