Observing that historians of the Spanish borderlands have emphasized accounts of government officials and institutions, the presidial system and military affairs, and the work of the Church and its missionaries, Oakah Jones chooses to concentrate on the ordinary settlers, the paisanos (countrymen). He writes of the civilian—the farmer, day laborer, stockman, and artisan—who was typical of the majority of the frontier colonists.

Jones modifies the traditional pattern of northward expansion established by the Bolton school, seeing the Pacific coast as a fourth, separate route. The four frontier areas are discussed as distinct units in the book. The author wisely considers frontier settlement in broad territorial dimensions that include both modern north Mexican states along with those areas now in our Southwest. He emphasizes the cultural unity, a character that was relatively intact until 1848. Thus, for example, familiarity with Coahuila’s early history is important for the understanding of early Texas colonization. However, the author does demonstrate some of the ways in which local experiences and conditions shaped traditions that eventually resulted in distinctive forms—as, for example, in the arts, crafts, and architecture of Santa Fe.

“As to the social habits and customs of the people,” a noted historian of New Mexico wrote years ago, “there is nothing worth recording” (p. 163). Jones happily confutes this assertion. Not that life on the frontier was in any way brilliant; most of the paisanos were hardworking, poor, and illiterate, and life was no doubt prosaic for the most part. But scandals, revolts, and crimes were sufficiently numerous to spice up life occasionally. This study devotes considerable space to discussions of social life in the communities—living conditions, morals, customs, economic life, cultural activities, and such other information that sheds light on the character of frontier life. No doubt readers in this country will have most interest in chapters dealing with our border states, yet Jones’ chapters on the north Mexican states provide information that is less easily available.

Although there are some original manuscript sources in this work, the study’s importance is that the author has drawn on a wide variety of published works to present a clear synthesis that is very useful as a reference work. Many statistics are provided, with population figures being of special interest. In addition, a glossary, photographs, and a valuable bibliographical essay enhance the attractive book.