Multi-volume, multi-authored works such as the Cambridge Modern History are intended, I suppose, to sum up in a broad general way the state of the historical art. Accordingly, their aim must be to summarize. They have an implicit commitment to the mid-stream of historical thought, and by their very nature they are a sort of collective view of the period they approach. The problems facing the editors of such a work are very great, but perhaps their readers are most interested in how they solved those of balanced coverage, unity and coherence of exposition, and general acceptability of interpretation.

This volume of the Cambridge Modern History has two chapters of direct interest to Latin Americanists, “The Spanish Empire under Pressure” by the late R. D. Hussey and “Portugal and her Empire” by V. Magalhães Godinho. In addition, there are parts of other chapters, notably those on the Mediterranean, on the Nine Years War, the War of the Spanish Succession, and on general economic development, whose bearing on American topics is substantial.

In his introduction, the editor lays down an approach that springs from the conviction that history should be written from the standpoint of the values of contemporaries. That is, that since eighteenth-century Europeans were generally far more interested in Milan than in Mexico, the modem historian can explain the most by adopting a similar emphasis. Accordingly, Hussey and Magalhães give major attention to Iberian affairs. The chapter on Spain is built around the War of the Spanish Succession. Magalhães organized his presentation around economic changes in Portugal and their political repercussions. About twenty percent of their combined pages go to Ibero-America and its affairs.

In contrast, French-English rivalry in North America gets a chapter to itself. This means, for example, that the discovery of gold in Brazil and all its consequences get about the same space as French-English military operations in the north between 1700-1715. Thus, it can readily be seen that the work is strongly oriented toward Europe, especially northern Europe. Ibero-America and its affairs are considered to be on the fringe of historical interest.

Latin American historians may think such a view distorted or even parochial. Yet perhaps we have been too little concerned with certain epochs or aspects of our field and have done virtually nothing to produce the kind of synthesis of generalized history that would make the task of writing works like the Cambridge Modern History easier. Above all, I believe that we have not yet honestly thought of our field in world historical terms.

As would be expected, the style of the work is varied. There are appreciable differences in the expository gifts of authors, and certain subjects are naturally more intractable than others. However, taken as a whole, the work presents a remarkable coherence. There is a minimum of repetition, and the topics are closely linked in the development of the book. There are an analytical table of contents and an index. The work seems au courant; at least, the chapter on Latin America reflect up-to-date research.

The inevitable price for a consensual view is a certain grayness. The work is descriptive rather than analytical, solid rather than brilliant, inclusive rather than incisive. Nevertheless, Latin Americanists will find this book an authoritative and useful volume even if it is oriented toward Europe and considers Latin America on the fringe of action in the eighteenth century. Impeccable in presentation, it serves admirably to summarize the mid-stream of contemporary historical scholarship.