Julia Sarreal has written a well-crafted historical work based on a consideration of quantitative data from the eighteenth-century Jesuit missions of Paraguay. Specifically, she seeks to understand the motivations and attitudes that underpinned Guaraní Indians’ collaboration with (and sometimes opposition to) the missionary regime. A few historians (like Juan Carlos Garavaglia, Barbara Ganson, and the late Ernesto J. A. Maeder) have made a stab at examining this subject before, but no one has done so good a job as Sarreal.

Her new study makes no attempt to supply a comprehensive history of the mission “state” from beginning to end. She notes with regret that the Jesuit accounting books for the 1600s have gone missing and the economic data they contained cannot be inferred with any precision. She focuses, therefore, on the Bourbon period to reconstruct the character and the trajectory of communal...

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