At the outset of this detailed study of livestock estates, Samuel Amaral proposes to depict how estancias spearheaded Argentina’s transition from colonial mercantilism to capitalism. He suggests that after 1810, rural producers bred cattle and raised crops by allocating resources according to market conditions. Amaral posits that producers pursued “freedom rather than privilege” in the process of seeking profits. Yet the influence of mercantilism on rural production appears weak in the late colonial period, as Amaral’s first chapter indicates. His analysis of the account books of one colonial cattle-raising enterprise reveals sound entrepreneurial responses to market demand and to profits. On the question of institutional development, Amaral’s conclusions are convincing. He devotes an entire chapter to the evolution of the Rural Code of 1871, which codified private property rights on the Pampas. He concludes that the code turned “habits and customs… into legislation” (p. 154) rather than establishing new precedents....

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