What constitutes corrupt behavior, and how does corruption affect society? Christoph Rosenmüller and Stephan Ruderer have produced an edited volume providing historical snapshots of the discourse on corruption from early colonial Latin America to the middle of the twentieth century. The contributors explore these topics via a mix of archival research, media coverage, and secondary sources.

In a useful framing chapter, Ruderer and Rosenmüller review the historiography of corruption in Latin America. They advocate avoiding an “essentialist” approach that would apply a single standard of corruption to all societies in all possible periods of time (p. 12). In its stead, they propose to focus on the discourse regarding corruption to reveal different actors' conceptualization of corruption, of proper action, and of the impact of corrupt behavior (p. 16).

The volume then presents four studies of corruption in the colonial era. L. Miguel...

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