The American Historical Review. July 1961, Vol 66 No. 4, p1149.


By George If. Foster. [Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology, Number 27.1 (Chicago: Viking Books 1960 Pp. ix 272 S6.oo.)

This substantial volume provides a systematic view of Spanish rural and village life today, as 2 means of understanding the basic Spanish culture carried to America in the sixteenth century and its effect on the Indian cultures. Spanish society is so conservative that many old customs and ideas have survived the centuries, and their study today, supplemented by historical data, makes possible a fresh approach to the conquest. Combining extensive field work and library research, Dr. Foster draws up his theoretical model of the "conquest culture." giving at the beginning of each chapter a brief statement on transferences and modifications in Spanish America. These comparisons, the chapter on "Contemporary Hispanic American Culture," and the conclusion in which the author applies his concept of "cultural crystallization" to the early history of the New World will particularly interest historians. The idea that the fundamental cultural influences were crystallized in the early decades of the conquest and determined the form of the new society deserves close atFoster also emphasizes that students of Spanish America need to know much more about Spanish culture and that the rich and diversified peninsular culture could be only partially used or absorbed in America. The detail in this book is at times overwhelming, but there are some light notes, such as that in Huesca "shepherds sometimes serenade ewes on the guitar to induce them to give milk."

Much is still to be done: "We know almost nothing of the operations of the great haciendas that characterized much of Spanish-speaking America," nor of such a vital subject as renting usages. Much also remains to be done before the differences in various areas of Spanish America are adequately known, and at this time most gen- eralizations are perilous. In this pioneer, necessarily incomplete study, gaps are to be seen; information on the introduction of plants and animals to the New World is dis- appointingly meager. While the bibliography lists an impressive amount of material on Spain, the Spanish American part is incomplete. That Foster draws heavily upon his own studies of certain Mexican areas is natural; the question arises as to how far it is permissible for the conclusions arrived at to be applied broadly to "Spanish American cul- ture." One hopes that someday anthropologists will also study the New World's in- on Spain, for this, too, though in reverse, is an integral part of the story.

Columbia University LEWIS Hanke

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