In This Review

Colonial Legacies: The Problem of Persistence in Latin American History
Colonial Legacies: The Problem of Persistence in Latin American History
Edited by Jeremy Adelman
Routledge, 1999, 318 pp

War in the Andes, the Chiapas revolt in Mexico, Colonel Hugo Chavez's election to the Venezuelan presidency, and Brazil's financial turmoil are all excellent reasons to read this book. Adelman has assembled an impressive group of historians to address the issue of why Latin America's past looms so heavily in the present. The authors examine the complex, triangular ties between Europe, Africa, and the Americas, arguing that no single institution or dynamic determined the precise shape of transatlantic colonialism. Hence, the outcomes of colonialism were unpredictable and ran into different forms of opposition in the Americas. These two propositions influenced generations of historians and social scientists of Latin America as they grappled with the persistence of pessimism about the region's future. This collection deserves attention from both policymakers and scholars as Latin America once again is seen as having failed to democratize fully and establish the rule of law. Such pessimism needs to be tempered by a more sophisticated understanding of old traditions and their continued evolution in unexpected ways.