Students of the church in Brazil will find Frei Venâncio Willeke’s book a welcome addition to the literature on the subject. The book is essentially a chronological study of Franciscan missionary activities throughout Brazil from 1500 to 1975. The author intends to celebrate the evangelical endeavors of his order, but he is neither apologist nor uncritical observer and makes excellent scholarly use of the materials available to him. While he relies heavily on chroniclers such as Frei Vicente do Salvador and the lesser-known Frei Antonio de Santa Maria Jaboatão, he has painstakingly examined the authenticity of their accounts. Controversial issues, such as the itinerant missions, the use of force in the conversion process, and the frequent conflicts with laymen and with other religious orders are aired openly in an attempt (not always successful) to treat such questions in an impartial, expository manner.

Of great interest were those sections which dealt with biographies of outstanding friars, with the proselytization practices of the Franciscans, and with the organization of a contemporary mission. In the portion devoted to the process of conversion, the author deals with the question of the extent to which coercion was employed in missionary activity. Why were forced marriages, corporal punishment, and prisons commonplace in the missions? He argues that prisons served a protective function—to house Indian women who had been raped by white settlers, to protect them from both rapacious colonists and from their Indian husbands, who in their despair, took vengeance on their dishonored wives. This, perhaps, is an appealing if somewhat ingenuously incomplete explanation. Also intriguing are the passing references to the proximity in which white settlers and Indian neophytes lived, since aldeias often had no distinguishable demarcations from the colonists’ settlements. It would be fascinating to know more of the ordinary daily interactions between the two peoples.

The author succinctly provides an accurate historical outline to be used by the specialist. He has competently treated available sources and has aided other historians by publishing some of the more interesting documents. We can appreciate Frei Venâncio Willeke’s work cognizant that he has provided breadth and substance to our knowledge of the missionary activities of the church.