First published in 1995, Carlos Mayo’s Estancia y sociedad has stood alongside other works in significantly revising the historiography of rural Río de la Plata during the late- colonial and early national periods. Since that date, Mayo’s observations of this pampa “tardocolonial” late-colonial period have been reinforced or revised, and thus this updated edition is received with anticipation.

Confirming research that reveals a colonial Buenos Aires pampa occupied primarily by small family farms and ranches, Mayo’s principal interest is the social life of the region. The study examines estancia families and landholdings, peones (laborers), agregados (tenant farmers), capataces (foremen) and work conditions, women, and sexuality. Based on estanciero wills, inventories, and judicial records, the picture that emerges is illuminating, if limited.

Early on, Mayo addresses the debate over complaints among ranchers and bureaucrats concerning labor scarcity during the period. For well over a century, the explanation was that...

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