In 1986 the editors of this anthology published a volume entitled Cities and Society in Colonial Latin America. It enjoyed considerable success and proved to be valuable for use in courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. In their new anthology, Hoberman and Socolow attempt to reprise their earlier success by directing the attention of scholars to rural Latin America during the same time period. The results, however, are not as satisfactory.

To accomplish their goal the editors invited some of the best-known United States (and one Argentine) historians of the period to contribute chapters relevant to their specialties. After an introductory essay by Socolow, Arnold Bauer analyzes the colonial economy grosso modo, in a chapter that is very strong in almost all ways (especially on the Church), but which fails to discuss the impact of eighteenth-century demographic expansion on the labor system of the late colonial period. Eric Van Young discusses material things like possessions, housing, and food. Juan Carlos Garavaglia chooses to address the issue of agrarian technology by limiting his essay to two specific regions of modern-day Argentina and Mexico. Stuart Schwartz’s chapter on the landed elite is probably the most geographically balanced essay in the collection, for the author brings into his analysis more areas than any other contributor. John Schwaller’s discussion of the clergy is one of the most satisfying chapters, for the fundamental similarity of the Church everywhere facilitates useful generalizations more than most topics. Lowell Gudmundson addresses the emergence of “Middle Groups,” about whom recent research has revealed a great deal. Herbert Klein and Cheryl English Martin discuss “Blacks” and “Indigenous Peoples,” respectively. Finally, Ward Stavig analyzes rural conflict and resistance. Hoberman concludes with an overview of the essays, and suggests the feasibility of employing the concept of patrimonialism to replace the outworn and misleading concepts of feudalism and capitalism. (Although I agree on throwing out the latter two, I am not entirely convinced by patrimonialism, given the etymology of this word and the importance of women as property owners.)

The overall quality of the essays is outstanding, and the book therefore provides students with a good overview of scholarship on specific themes. On the other hand, as an anthology the whole seems to be a bit less than the sum of its parts. The problem is that the book’s theme is just too big. It made sense to compile an anthology on colonial cities, for despite regional differences, urban centers, whether founded de novo by Europeans or transformed from indigenous origins, had a great deal in common. They were the real focal points not only of colonialism but also of Iberian colonization. The countryside, however, had no such unity. Every region was a unique blend of ecological factors and indigenous patterns of settlement and economic exchange, and therefore the authors were forced to find a middle road between meaningful generalization and regional variation.

As a result, many of the chapters either read like encyclopedic travel guides or derive generalizations based on a small regional sample that tends to overemphasize Mexico. Indeed, few contributors mention Central America (with the exception of Gudmundson, a Central Americanist), northern South America, and the nonsugar regions of Brazil and the Caribbean. It seems to me that the very talented authors were asked to do the impossible. The book also has minor flaws. Some illustrations include no text to identify the specific places or people portrayed. The accompanying economic map fails to mention cotton, a significant omission given the importance of cotton textiles as material things and as products of the female sphere of the indigenous economy. In sum, the book is useful, but not as good as the editors’ previous effort.