This little book has as its stated purpose to resurrect eighteenth-century Iberian maritime activity from unjustifiable obscurity. The authors believe Spanish and Portuguese efforts on the high seas are too often neglected in favor of the exploits of northern Europeans. This may be the case in France, as the authors say (p. 1), but not among habitual readers of the HAHR, who will find little new in the volume.

The book has a curious format. It consists of seven chapters, each of which is built around a short extract from an eighteenth-century document or two. The extracts are followed by contextual material that runs ten to twenty times as long as the documents themselves. With these proportions, the bulk of the book is commentary and context. Each chapter also includes a sizeable bibliography for further reference. In some cases these are woefully out of date, as in a section on the formation of Brazilian society, which offers only Gilberto Freyre (p. 118). In others, the bibliography provides a useful survey of the relevant literature in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

The selected extracts deal mostly with traditional themes of maritime historiography. On Portuguese-British trade there are a few paragraphs from Jean Helfflinger’s 1786 book on Portuguese commerce. On Portuguese enclaves in Asia and on Spanish Manila there are 550 words from the famous book (published in various editions during the 1770s and ‘80s) of the Abbé Raynal. The equally famous tome of Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa (1749) is quoted describing the ports of Cartagena and Portobelo. The lengthiest extract is from the memoirs of the French corsair Duguay-Trouin, published in 1740, and deals with his expedition against Rio de Janeiro (1710-12). Other extracts describe Buenos Aires in 1771; Brazilian sugar and gold production; and the scientific voyages of don Alejandro Malaspina, who traversed the Pacific from Chile to Alaska, then to the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and back to Chile (1788-94).

All the documents have been previously published, and all but one has also been republished after 1962. The documents all deal with commercial, geographical, or military matters, except for the one on Malaspina. But the document quoted here concerns only the plans for Malaspina’s expedition, not its experiences in sailing roughly 50,000 kilometers in Pacific waters.

In short, the book may prove useful for French university students, or any students who read French. Specialists in Latin American history, Iberian history, or maritime history will not learn much from the commentaries, and will not likely be satisfied with the brief extracts from documents.