Professor Warren presents a well-balanced and definitive account of the establishment of Spanish dominion over the large, populous, strong, and independent Tarascan realm of Michoacán. A distinct, advanced people with a highly organized government at the head of which stood a monarch bearing the title Cazonci, the Tarascans were surpassed in importance in central Mexico only by their neighboring Aztec enemies, whose attempts at conquest they had defeated.

Bringing of the Tarascan realm under Spanish sovereignty provides a classic example of colonial expansion by diplomacy and demonstration of seemingly irresistible force through peaceful submission of an absolute ruler, and his use thereafter as an instrument of control. It also well demonstrates Spanish procedures in extending sway over an important region where but a minimum of force was required.

Close to Mexico City to the west, Michoacán early came to Spanish attention. Diplomatic exchanges, followed in mid-1522 by an expedition sent by Cortés under Cristóbal de Olid, brought the Cazonci, young, overawed, and appalled by the destruction of the Aztec empire, irrevocably to acknowledge Spanish overlordship. Olid failed to colonize, but on his return to Mexico City introduction of Spanish institutions and practices followed swiftly and inexorably, except for founding of municipalities, of which none were established during the early years. Administrators of encomiendas and overseers of mining operations representing officials, encomenderos, and others residing in Mexico City thus became the first colonists.

By 1530, the Spaniards were firmly established and Michoacán had become a route for the Pacific coast and a base for expansion northwestward. Civil jurisdiction was provided by the higher authorities in Mexico City and officials sent by them; the encomienda system was fully established; encomenderos developed livestock and other estancias on lands of their pueblos; extensive mining, notably of gold, with teams of legally enslaved Indians supplying the labor, was in progress; Christianization, begun from the first and given great impetus by arrival of Franciscan friars, was carried forward; and the encomenderos and other conquistadores stood prepared in Mexico City for any military contingencies. Inevitable discontent and some killing of Spaniards required punitive action, but the only serious warfare involved pacification, around 1527, of the rugged southwestern mining area known as Motín.

Major attention is devoted to all aspects of the vitally important encomienda system as it developed in Michoacán. In addition to the usual features of the system at this stage, the encomienda and mining were very closely interlocked economically. Further, in absence of municipalities, and since most encomenderos resided in Mexico City and spent little time in Michoacán, encomienda administrators assumed perhaps to an unusual degree direct de facto political functions in the pueblos along with their basic economic role.

The status of the Cazonci, never truly formalized, became progressively anomalous. He had apparently naively hoped to retain a measure of autonomy. Many among the higher native echelons and people still regarded him as ruler, and he could thus exert political influence, to the mounting ire of encomenderos and displeasure of officials. Finally, in 1530, he was formally tried and executed by the controversial Nuño de Guzmán on charges including interference with the functioning of the encomiendas, complicity in the killing of Spaniards, lapses from Christianity, and planning insurrection.

Professor Warren makes judicial and analytic use of sources, filling in gaps and discussing and clarifying obscure and controversial points. He has added significantly to research studies on Spanish New World expansion, and it is to be hoped that this work will not be long delayed in appearing also in the English version.