The Spanish Colonial Settlement Landscapes of New Mexico, 1598-1680

By Babcock, Matthew M. | The Historian, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

The Spanish Colonial Settlement Landscapes of New Mexico, 1598-1680


Babcock, Matthew M., The Historian


The Spanish Colonial Settlement Landscapes of New Mexico, 1598-1680. By Elinore M. Barrett. (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2012. Pp. xvi, 280. $49.95.)

In this concise interdisciplinary study, the author provides a thorough treatment of New Mexico's Spanish settlement landscape prior to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Building on her prior work, Conquest and Catastrophe [2004], which examines Rio Grande Pueblo settlement patterns in the same era, Elinore M. Barrett argues, "The Spanish conquest and occupation" of New Mexico from 1598 to 1680 "transformed the human and natural landscapes" by introducing new forms of governance, resource use, and technologies (161). Offering a narrative in contrast to the conventional picture of European settlement patterns in colonial North America, Barrett maintains that "the scattered rural landholdings of the colonists, rather than towns or villages," typified New Mexico's "Spanish settlement landscape" (162). Although this book suffers from organizational weaknesses and fragmentary historical documentation that impedes analysis, it is a well-researched synthesis of Spanish settlement--with extensive tables and maps--that is useful to geographers, historians, archaeologists, and genealogists.

Barrett's eighteen-chapter study is divided into three uneven sections. Part 1, "The Context of Settlement," provides an overview of New Mexico's natural, Pueblo, and Spanish cultural landscapes. Barrett argues that in the seventeenth century, like today, drought was a more significant factor than cold in reducing agricultural productivity and influencing Spanish settlement patterns. After highlighting the major crops and products Pueblos produced for subsistence and trade, the book's organizational structure begins to break down. Chapter 4, "The Spanish Institutional Landscape," might have comprised an entire section. …

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