This study concerns the administration of justice, which Herzog approaches from the perspective of government and the nature of institutions; it is not about crime and punishment. She argues that research on the Spanish state has focused on the operation of the royal bureaucracy and has attributed its failure to its subversion by local interests and corruption. This perspective views the state as separate from society. Herzog aims to show how the penal system was not coercive or opposed to society but worked through social networks and the ability of the state to create an image of authority. She elaborates this thesis through a detailed examination of the administration of justice in the city of Quito between 1650 and 1750.

Herzog opens with an account of how court cases were initiated and handled, indicating the division of labor between the audiencia, municipal courts,...

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