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This webpage reproduces an article in
The Americas
Vol. 19 No. 3 (Jan. 1963), pp333‑334

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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[Book Review]

Spain in America, 1450‑1580. By Edward Gaylord Bourne. Introduction and supplementary bibliography by Benjamin Keen. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1962. Pp. 366. Paper, $2.25; cloth, $5.00.)

The reprinting of Bourne's classic study of Spain's first century in Americaa is a fortunate event for students of Latin America. Since its publication in 1904 as a volume in the American Nation Series, this brief study has become a standard work in its field and an intervening half century of historical scholarship has not destroyed its usefulness. As a consequence of Bourne's skillful use of sources and dispassionate craftsmanship, his conclusions have stood the test of time unusually well and his cautious judgments continue to be strikingly valid.

While the discussion of colonial institutions was of secondary importance in Bourne's plan (the extension of geographical knowledge being his primary emphasis), the chapters on the Spanish colonial system seem to this reviewer to have particular excellence and continuing value. Each is a tightly organized and concise essay on an aspect of colonization. Basically six topics are discussed: emigration to America, Indian policy, Negro p334slavery, administrative machinery, commercial policy, and the role of the Church in the transmission of culture.

As Benjamin Keen notes in his introduction to the reissue, Bourne initiated a scholarly reaction in the United States to the "black legend" of Spanish cruelty and fanaticism. He did this in part by drawing frequent comparisons, often to the advantage of Spain, between Spanish and English experience and practice in the New World and by urging that Spanish conduct be viewed relatively against the background of prevailing European imperialist practices. While it may have appeared at the turn of the century that Bourne was a too eager apologist for Spain, the knowledgeable reader today will realize the impressive support that subsequent research has given to his evaluation of Spanish conduct and achievement.

In addition to an introduction which places the work in historiographic perspective for today's reader, Professor Keen has prepared a supplementary bibliography which, while admittedly highly selective, provides adequate introduction to the recent literature. This appears as an added chapter and conveniently follows the same pattern as Bourne's "Critical Essay on Authorities" which happily is also to be found in this reissue.

Walter N. Breymann

Drake University,
Des Moines, Iowa


Thayer's Note:

a A review of Bourne's book at the time it was published is also onsite: PSQ 20:329‑332.


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Page updated: 27 Apr 13