This book provides a general history of Latin America in the period between the European conquest and the gaining of independence by the Spanish American countries and Brazil (approximately 1492–1825). It is both an introduction for the student at the college level and a provisionally updated synthesis of the quickly changing field for the more experienced reader. The authors’ aim is not only to treat colonial Brazil and colonial Spanish America in a single volume, something rarely done, but also to view early Latin America as one unit with a centre and peripheries, all parts of which were characterized by variants of the same kinds of change, regardless of national and imperial borders.
The authors integrate both the older and the newer historical literature, seeing legal, institutional, and political phenomena within a social, economic, and cultural context. They incorporate insights from other disciplines and newer techniques of historical research, but eschew jargon or technical concepts. The approach of the book, with its emphasis on broad social and economic trends across large areas and long time periods, does much to throw light on Latin America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well.