Near the commencement of this informative work, the author affirms that “it was not merely coincidental that the Law of the Indies stipulated norms for administering native American irrigation systems in terms almost identical to those found in the dispositions of James I of Aragón and Alfonso the Wise of Castile in Valencia and Murcia.” To be sure, since his work deals solely with the water distribution system of the medieval kingdom of Valencia between the 13th-century reconquest and 1500, two large sectors of direct concern to Ibero-Americanists remain to be explored: the law and operation of irrigation agriculture in Andalusia, as the presumably immediate antecedents for the Indies; and the amalgamation of Iberian with pre-Columbian Indian hydraulic methods and structures in the New World, particularly in the zones of Aztec and Inca imperialism. But Glick, drawing upon the rich, largely unused medieval Valencian documentation, provides so much light upon the nature, genesis and operation of a major Iberian water-based society that any future advance in these other two directions will be heavily indebted to his investigation.

Of the two parts into which the treatment is divided, the first, after describing the river and canal system of the five Valencian huertas, notably that of the lower Guadalaviar (Turia) in the vicinity of the capital city itself, and the adjacent coastal swamplands (marjals), goes on to analyze in detail the village and municipal communities themselves, their internal organization, their selection of syndic-representatives to the regional councils (including the famous Tribunal of Waters) that supervised water allotments and adjudicated disputes, and their reaction to crises of water insufficiency, above all during extreme drought. Part two, of great general interest, surveys the still lively 19th- and 20th-century controversies between proponents of the Roman or the Islamic foundations of Valencian irrigation agriculture, with some particularly penetrating pages aimed against the well-known thesis of Wittfogel on the necessarily centralized and despotically state-operated character of any ‘hydraulic’ society. Glick demonstrates conclusively how overwhelmingly local was the community control of the whole Valencian river and canal network, with crown intervention exceptional. In the context of general Islamic (chiefly Persian and Syrian) water technology, water use, administrative techniques, and Arabic-Romance vocabulary, he strongly supports the case for the Muslim establishment and perfecting of the whole irrigation structure of the Valencian kingdom.

The book’s insistently sociological-anthropological approach and its contemporary weakness for the relevance of conflict do not do full justice to the fundamental stability of a century-old institutional and technological complex, still very much in use; and here perhaps it has been unduly affected by the character of the surviving records, which relate to cases of adjudication. Too little has been done with the irrigators themselves and the social cadres involved in irrigation agriculture, or with the place of these and their organizations in the total social-institutional-juridical complex of medieval Valencian society. The question of Ibero-Christian institutional and legal modifications in the post-reconquest epoch is too readily passed over. The bibliography surprisingly omits Dante Caponera’s useful Water Laws in Moslem Countries (FAO Paper no. 43, 1954); and Betty E. Dobkins’ The Spanish Element in Texas Water Law (Austin, 1959) might well have been cited for its Roman, Muslim, and Ibero-Christian sections. The reviewer found it annoying to have the bibliography placed before the extensive footnotes; happily, the index remains terminal.