Juan Carlos Garavaglia began his work on the colonial economy in the Río de la Plata basin decades ago. This text is an ambitious and rewarding work. It provides a broad and detailed history of rural life in the areas surrounding Buenos Aires during the colonial era. While other recent works have focused on laborers, farmers, ranchers and the system of land ownership and use, he examines the region’s rural communities in their entirety.

The book begins with a chapter on the geographical context. Although Garavaglia offers no surprises here, the chapter is clear, precise and comprehensive. The second chapter, simply titled “Hommes et Femmes” (“Men and Women”), examines the demographic and social characteristics of the region. Maps, tables, and graphs, here and throughout the text, effectively support his argument. To add depth to the general overview, Garavaglia provides a detailed examination of...

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