Brooke Larson's book is the product of an earlier historiographical
moment, and it is an enduring contribution to scholarship. Thinking
about the relation between these two dimensions of the book helps
us appreciate its special importance.
Let us deal, first, with the book as a contribution to scholarship.
Cochabamba, 1550-1900 is an examination of the formation of colo-
nial society in the Cochabamba Valleys-the installation of Spanish
colonial institutions, relations, and forms; the reconfiguration of in-
digenous social relations and identities; the emergence of indigenous
communities as colonial forms and productions; the emergence of
Cochabamba as a provisioner of grain within the economic orbit of
the mines at Potosi and the consequent rise of haciendas; and the
formation of a mestizo peasantry within and alongside haciendas.
After two chapters that deal with sixteenth-century transformations,
based on a magnificent reconstruction of precolonial Andean social
and political organization, most of the book deals with eighteenth-
century colonial society. While the institutional and structural
dimensions of these transformations are examined in detail, a dis-
tinctive feature of the book is the care with which it explores the
dynamics and unequal social relations within indigenous societies
in the context of colonial rule, as well as the activities and social
relations of the "rival peasant economy."
The documentary basis for the study is rich, including archives in
Seville, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Lima, Sucre, and Cochabamba. The in-
terpretive work Larson does with her archival sources is especially
impressive. Let us take two examples. In chapter 4, she examines
the internal relations, inequalities, and rivalries of Andean village
society. For an interpretation of a mid-eighteenth-century rivalry be-
tween two cacique families, she begins with the record of the dis-
in the Bolivian National Archives in Sucre but sup-