Colonial Latin America, Sixth Edition


Colonial Latin America
Mark A. Burkholder and Lyman L. Johnson,
Oxford University Press, 2008

THE SIXTH edition of Colonial Latin America will remain one of the standard introductions to the history of this region not least because of the authors’ refreshing willingness to update this book after comments by students and reviewers. This edition is of particular interest because of the addition of a section on Atlantic Africa – a pressing and essential response to an important lacuna in the teaching of Latin America. We learn about pre-existing European contacts with Africa through Portuguese trading in a land fragmented by ethnicity and dominated by a handful of powers. The authors examine and contextualise these contacts as a prelude to the European adventures in the New World and the growing role of slaves as a commodity and as a means by which the Portuguese, in particular, cemented ties with local elites. While that trade benefited these elites, their power declined rapidly in relation to that of Portugal and slavery became more of an overt expression of European colonial domination. The Atlantic slave trade was built on these foundations and the authors do well to explain how the forms of slavery later developed on such a vast scale by the Europeans in their American colonies differed essentially from that which had hitherto been pervasive in Africa itself. – GO’T