As the latest entry in the Oxford University Latin American Histories Series, this study by Brian Loveman continues the high quality that has characterized these national histories. In a well-written book, Loveman traces the development of Chile from the Spanish conquest to the present, focusing on the theme of hispanic capitalism. The coverage is carefully balanced, with equal attention given to the colonial and national periods. Additionally, the author includes a succinct, perceptive appraisal of the last years of democratic government in Chile (1970-1973) and the initial activities of the current military regime.

After establishing the nature of hispanic capitalism in the colonial age, Loveman points out that following independence Chilean leaders perpetuated the fundamental aspects of the hispanic system: Chilean society remained stratified, commerce continued to receive more attention than industry, and political stability was preserved under an autocratic regime. An eight-month civil war in 1891 strengthened the oligarchic tendencies in Chilean politics, but in 1926 Carlos Ibáñez del Campo assumed the presidency and returned the nation to hispanic authoritarianism while at the same time reasserting the hispanic intolerance for political liberalism. Following the overthrow of Ibáñez, Chile enjoyed forty years of stability and democracy. In this period the hacienda system continued to prevail, peasants were denied the right to unionize, urbanization moved forward steadily, and U. S. influence increased.

By 1964 the Christian Democratic party had grown strong enough to win the presidency but its success was limited to one term. This quick decline resulted partially from the nature of Christian Democracy which was not radical enough for the Chilean left but too radical for the right. Then too, the party’s program was too ambitious to be accomplished in a single six-year term. The collapse of the Christian Democrats was significant because they had attacked the hacienda system and as that vestige of hispanic capitalism began to disintegrate, the traditional party system deteriorated and Chile’s highly praised political stability was doomed.

In 1970 the Marxists took control of the nation. Their ambition was to create peacefully a socialist state, but they were confronted with a hostile congress, an entrenched bureaucracy and the traditional Chilean fear of Marxism. In addition, the Marxist coalition could not resolve the differences between the socialists and communists, and continual bickering weakened the administration. Loveman suggests that another major problem for the Marxists was their inability to halt inflation and stem the growing tide of violence. While Washington sought to destabilize the Marxist government, a more important factor in its overthrow was what Loveman calls simply, “bad politics.” With the fall of the Marxists the military took control and the period of Chilean democracy came to a close, supplanted by a harsh military dictatorship. Once again in Chilean history a repressive government, supporting hispanic capitalism, came to power.

As a general history this book has much to commend it. By following the thread of hispanic capitalism, Loveman is able to deal with the essential features of Chilean history in one short volume which can acquaint the college student with Chilean history but which, at the same time, is interesting and thought-provoking for the specialist as well.