This is an important book about the sociopolitical transformation of the central Peruvian highlands (the Upper Mantaro valley) after the Inca conquest in the fifteenth century a. d. Moreover, Terence D’Altroy has compared the Incas’ imperial strategy with other premodern examples of imperialism. The author has used the “hegemonic-territorial” model of analysis, which emphasizes decision-making strategies, disposition of imperial assets, and their relevance to the extraction of vassal resources. The virtue of this work is primarily archaeological, but the text includes historical and interdisciplinary references in its discussion of field research results. Unfortunately, the historical evaluations are not elaborated with the benefit of archival material. That laborious task remains for scholars to undertake.
Inca governance over the largest pre-Columbian empire affected competitor states, highly sophisticated cultures, and simple tribes. Imperial rule was pragmatically flexible in the integration of diverse societies. Inca conquests involved coercive persuasion or overwhelming military attack. After submission, the Incas resettled indigenous people, deported entire communities, imported colonists and military garrisons, and assimilated the local elites into the administrative system.
Supplying the Inca armies constituted one of the most astounding wonders of pre-Columbian America. The Inca relations with the Xauxa and Wanka populations that inhabited the Upper Mantaro valley had an ideological, material, and spatial rationale. The Inca expansionist strategy facilitated an especially generous treatment of those two conquered peoples. The Incas constructed some of their largest storage facilities in the Upper Mantaro valley; the region served as a natural conduit and breadbasket for the realm. Much of the valley was conquered relatively peacefully, and it became one of the most integrated parts of the empire. Although life and economic activity at the community level (ayllu) may not have changed radically, the imperial state controlled the production and distribution of certain status and strategic goods. The local elites adopted a centralized internal administration because their power increased through imperial governance.
Andean specialists would be well advised to read D’Altroy’s work for its insights into the impact of Inca administration at the state level as well as on the household. This book is also a significant contribution for comparing the so-called archaic empires.