In this anthology of articles on the history of society and culture, the authors combine quantitative methods and structural analysis with the intuitive and critical tools of traditional history in order to obtain a holistic view of the past. The volume consists of separate models or experiments of such a nature in preparation for a volume on the history of material and cultural life in Latin America. B. H. Slicher van Bath will contribute the economic and social history and A. van Oss, the cultural history, which includes the Church, an investigation of worship, as well as the arts and sciences.
Two of the ten articles which make up this book have never been published before. Four earlier selections by Slicher, published in Dutch, deal with European topics, prehistoric man, feudalism and medieval society, the freedom of peasants, and serfdom. “Mendicant Expansion in New Spain and the Extent of the Colony: XVIth Century,” in English, and “Feudalismo y capitalismo en América Latina,” in Spanish, by van Oss, have appeared in the Boletín de Estudios Latino Americanos y del Caribe, respectively in volume 17 (1974) and volume 21 (1976).
The first new essay is of joint authorship and describes the experimental program which stresses data gathering along traditional lines supported by quantitative evidence where possible in preparatory studies. For instance, Ricard’s vague statements concerning the early numbers and times of arrival of the mendicant orders in New Spain can be improved by the use of economic, demographic, cultural (building and construction), and legal sources (see van Oss). The same can be done for New Spain and Peru from 1520 to 1810. Market activities over that time span can be charted, both with respect to quantity and density of activity over distances and in whatever directions they can be traced. Then, if these data were to be combined, for instance by plotting along the same time scale the succession of styles, and the density and kind of buildings in a region, or similar cultural and economic phenomena by overlays of translucent charts and maps, the result would be a whole new set of correlations which provoke new questions and open up areas of investigation which are not visible when seen only in one context.
The second article is a contribution to the debate over the demographic development of Latin America during colonial times. The last two new articles: “The Colonization of the Environment: European Flora and Fauna in Latin America” and “The Paradise of Vázquez de Espinosa, O. Carm.” are by Slicher. The last has a map which shows thirty-one places in Latin America with one or more attributes of an earthly paradise. The sites range from Copiapó to the Rio Pánuco and Xalapa. Though pious, chanting, and happily working Indians are part of the scene, an ideal plantation with slaves is not included, probably because the author wrote in the early seventeenth century.
The presentation of these research schemes can be easily discerned by anyone with a feeling for the neighborliness of the English and Dutch idioms. Headings of paragraphs, charts, and graphs clarify the theoretical parts and references are international and up-to-date.