In Rivers of Gold, Lives of Bondage, historian Sherwin K. Bryant invites us to rethink and revise our understanding of slavery in colonial Spanish America. First, he revises the notion that areas with small numbers (in relative scale) of enslaved Africans were less impacted by slavery (societies with slaves vs. slave societies) than by large-scale plantation societies. Second, Bryant proposes that “racial governance” permeated and conditioned the exercise of authority at all levels in Spanish America. Finally, he argues that slavery and the varieties of unfreedom cast upon Africans and indigenous Andeans reflect an exercise of imperial power that forms an essential element of the workings of empire. Bryant makes his argument in four concise chapters in addition to an introductory chapter and conclusion.

The introduction to Rivers of Gold, Lives of Bondage presents us with the varied landscape of colonial...

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