Peru: A Short History

Peru: A Short History

Peru: A Short History

Peru: A Short History


Although itis only the fourth largest country of Latin America (after Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico), Peru's half-million square miles are equivalent to the combined area of France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Superimposed upon the heartland of the United States, Peru would cover about all of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. Noted for the splendors of its geography, its extensive mineral endowments, and the richness of its culture and history, Peru, however, provides only a meager subsistence to most of its sixteen million inhabitants.

David P. Werlich, drawing on over five thousand sources, both published and unpublished, synthesizes for the general reader and student recent scholarship on the political, economic, social, and cultural evolution of this important Latin American nation. Without neglecting the country's early history, Werlich stresses modern Peru- the period since 1914- andfurnishes the first unified, in-depth accounting of the momentous post-1968 revolution under Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado.

Werlich's history is a lucid introduction to the entire scope of Peruvian history, and will be especially welcomed by the general reader and student interested in the contemporary era. The extensive and comprehensive bibliographic essay found in the back of the book is an invaluable aid to further study.


A CYNICAL but serviceable definition characterizes the historian as a person who complicates the simple and simplifies the complex. To help ourselves and others better understand the past, and perhaps the present, we employ details to challenge faulty generalizations that distort the complicated interactions of persons, ideas, and things we call "events." Conversely, historians "interpret" the past--create new generalizations--to make it more meaningful. The results of our efforts are always imperfect.

Some of the imperfections in this volume result from my decision to stress the republican period, especially the twentieth century. The early history of Peru has been compressed to emphasize those developments that I believe are more important to an understanding of the contemporary era. In simplifying the complex some fascinating stories were eliminated and a few significant topics, especially those adequately treated elsewhere, were reduced to their essentials. I have complicated the simple primarily to question generalizations about modern Peru. The academic graveyard is strewn with the reputations of historians who strayed too close to the present, thus losing their objectivity. Nevertheless, I have devoted a long chapter to the important developments that occurred after 1968. My conclusions about the very fluid "Peruvian Revolution," of course, are tentative.

This book is intended primarily as an introduction to Peru for the student and general reader. However, it also may be useful in providing historical background for Peruvian specialists in other disciplines and as a reference for historians whose major interests lie outside of Peru. Specialists in Peruvian history will take exception to some of my observations. I welcome opportunities to be corrected in my errors of fact and interpretation.

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