Colonialism and Agrarian Transformation in Bolivia: Cochabamba, 1550-1900
Cochabamba is the principal agricultural region of Bolivia, with a peasantry that has been especially active in small-scale commercial agriculture and marketing. Focusing on this region, Brooke Larson supplies the first long-term historical view of rural society in colonial and nineteenthy2Dcentury Bolivia. While examining the impact of mercantile colonialism during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, she offers an important corrective to the "world-systems" approach to agrarian transformation. Weak Andean resistance and the emerging interregional market created extraordinary opportunities for Europeans to turn Cochabamba into an agrarian hinterland of Potosi: Professor Larson locates the dynamic of this kind of historical change not only in the global forces of commercial capitalism but also in the local tensions and conflicts among Andean peasants, Spanish landowners, and the colonial state.
Combining economic history and ethnohistory, the author shows how the contradictions of class and colonialism gave rise to new social forces from below that both accommodated and challenged the evolving structures of domination. She argues that the adaptive vitality of the Cochabamba peasantry gradually undermined the economic power of the hacendado class and the moral authority of the Bourbon state, with landlords and colonial administrators resorting to new forms of exploitation in the late colonial period. The book then examines the social consequences of these agrarian patterns for the region and nation in the late nineteenth century.