This book is a delightfully provocative, if ultimately problematic, contribution to the historiography of women and the law in Spanish America. The author emerges from the judicial archives of late colonial and early republican Quito with an account that places the political history of the city and its environs next to the gendered legal practices of its inhabitants. Demonstrating that women in colonial Quito possessed a fair amount of legal autonomy and access to legal privileges, Chad Thomas Black envisions the book as a corrective to prior scholarship that overemphasizes gendered constraints on colonial women’s legal and political lives. Restrictions on women’s legal activity were not, he insists, so much a colonial as a liberal inheritance.

The first section of the book treats the period from 1765 to 1809 and stresses that Hapsburg political and legal culture was built on principles of negotiation,...

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