Cleanly executed, well organized, making a definite contribution to the history of Peru and the Jesuits, this book requires description more than criticism. It is narrower than its title and broader than its subtitle. Rather than intellectual history in a strict sense, it is an institutional history of the Jesuit colegio of San Pablo in Lima, with chapters on such topics as educational activities, the library, the pharmacy, a moral-theological seminar, missions, and sodalities. The broader significance stems from San Pablo’s position as the first Jesuit foundation in South America, Jesuit headquarters for the Viceroyalty of Peru and trainer of personnel for the whole continent.
Most scholarly works on the Jesuits in Spanish America have been written under the order’s auspices. The present book is very much in that tradition. Though no “S. J.” appears after the author’s name, the publisher is Fordham University Press, and the sources are almost all of Jesuit provenance, including the private collection of Jesuit historian Rubén Vargas Ugarte. The author automatically takes the side of the Jesuits in all their controversies. At one point he quite legitimately brings in the social and economic context to explain Jesuit acceptance and use of Negro slavery; yet he ignores the same kinds of arguments when he comes to the Jesuits’ doctrinaire position on Indians. None of this will prevent the experienced reader from making his own assessments. But for objectivity, Magnus Mörner’s book on the Jesuits in the Plata region still stands alone in the field.
Martín has gone far toward filling a near vacuum on the Peruvian Jesuits and offsetting a more general overconcentration on Jesuit missions. Perhaps he would have done even more in this respect had he not explicitly set himself the goal of writing concisely. His intention is admirable; no one wants to see more multivolume church history in which identically zealous priors march chronologically past. Yet there are other kinds of detail. If we are to understand whether the numerous fine minds at San Pablo made original intellectual contributions, we must have extended analyses of their writings, not reduction to skeletal ideas which could have emanated from Dominicans as well. San Pablo’s relations with other Jesuit houses and its educational role in Lima need flesh and blood portrayal. Many of the book’s virtues come precisely from the extent to which it is detailed. Its gains immeasurably from being the history of one significant establishment, on the basis of minute local records, rather than a superficial survey of many. Some of the freshest knowledge, with the broadest implications, is to be found in the relatively detailed sections on San Pablo’s library and pharmacy.
Perhaps, having now set the institutional framework, the author might be prevailed on in the future to write one or more further volumes, giving us a strictly intellectual history of the Jesuits of San Pablo, a more exact social definition of their clientele, and an expansion of the present book’s excellent appendix on their economic activities.