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Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America

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A concise, chronological history of Latin America spans six centuries and encompasses twenty countries as it discusses the people, events, and factors that shaped Latin America--including colonization, revolution, ethnic diversity, and the struggle for economic growth and political and social equality.


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A concise, chronological history of Latin America spans six centuries and encompasses twenty countries as it discusses the people, events, and factors that shaped Latin America--including colonization, revolution, ethnic diversity, and the struggle for economic growth and political and social equality.

30 review for Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Quick notes: 1) This book has several editions. I read the first edition, published in 2001 - a copy from my library. There are now three subsequent editions. This (likely) has little bearing on the 100+ years historical events, but the final chapters (the last 40-50 years) are undoubtedly more detailed - SO much has happened in these regions since 2000. 2) This book is written and intended as a university textbook. Chasteen is an engaging writer and makes the history interesting, but in textbook Quick notes: 1) This book has several editions. I read the first edition, published in 2001 - a copy from my library. There are now three subsequent editions. This (likely) has little bearing on the 100+ years historical events, but the final chapters (the last 40-50 years) are undoubtedly more detailed - SO much has happened in these regions since 2000. 2) This book is written and intended as a university textbook. Chasteen is an engaging writer and makes the history interesting, but in textbook form, there is very little in the way of resources and citations. I was disappointed by that, but did see that in 2011, he published a sister guide focusing on primary sources and #ownvoices. This is a great addition for a classroom, and I plan to seek it out too. 3) The subtitle of this book is "A Concise History of Latin America", and at 352 pages for 500 years of history, it is definitely CONCISE. Chasteen states upfront that there will be broad sweeps, and he focuses on the major players (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina) with notable references to Chile, Colombia, Peru... but Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, and even the expanse of Central America barely get a nod, only in later chapters with neocolonialism and US interventionism, and even then, brief. For a basic history, this is a good place to start. Chasteen covers a lot of ground, and manages to integrate aspects of indigenous studies, women's history, labor history - and I imagine this has just increased with each new edition. I will be digging deep into South American history, literature, and culture starting in 2019, so this was a solid survey text to begin that project. 3.5 stars - a .5 star deduction for the lack of bibliography, end notes, and further reading!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Linda Abhors the New GR Design

    Obligatory terse review, as things are still hectic around here. I waffled and wavered all over this. First, inclined for a four, then a two, so going for a three. Why? It's concise, clear, non-pretentious prose, not without its bias but not heavily so. It offers the usual summary of political and historical events in Latin America (for Brazil is discussed almost as much as the Hispanophone countries), with a few moments where the author clears up a few things that either are misconceptions or wh Obligatory terse review, as things are still hectic around here. I waffled and wavered all over this. First, inclined for a four, then a two, so going for a three. Why? It's concise, clear, non-pretentious prose, not without its bias but not heavily so. It offers the usual summary of political and historical events in Latin America (for Brazil is discussed almost as much as the Hispanophone countries), with a few moments where the author clears up a few things that either are misconceptions or what he considers to be so. The reason I couldn't give it a full raving review is that I believe it's geared to be used as a text, and this man doesn't cite his sources. Ever. Yes, I know, Doris Kearns Goodwin and all that, but I simply couldn't put this in front of my students and say "yes, this is allowed." As a matter of fact, I fight them yearly on the issue. A section at the end of each chapter highlights a particular phenomenon, and there are black and white photos at the beginning of each chapter and each of these end segments, with some good charts interspersed.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amri

    It's a decent political history of Mexico, Central and South America but it wasn't very satisfying because he just can't do justice to 500 years of history in 20 countries, even if as a region they often mirrored each other, in 400 pages. Also, there's no liking the US after this one. Not that I've ever been a fan of the US involvement in Latin America but yowsers, Chasteen in harsh. It's a decent political history of Mexico, Central and South America but it wasn't very satisfying because he just can't do justice to 500 years of history in 20 countries, even if as a region they often mirrored each other, in 400 pages. Also, there's no liking the US after this one. Not that I've ever been a fan of the US involvement in Latin America but yowsers, Chasteen in harsh.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Taylor

    While I generally pride myself on being a well-rounded individual, I will readily confess that knowledge of Latin American history is one of my blind spots. For whatever reason, I don’t remember learning much about Latin America throughout my educational journey. Now that I’m teaching World History to 10th graders, I decided I needed to learn more about this part of the world, and a fellow teacher recommended John Charles Chasteen’s Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. I r While I generally pride myself on being a well-rounded individual, I will readily confess that knowledge of Latin American history is one of my blind spots. For whatever reason, I don’t remember learning much about Latin America throughout my educational journey. Now that I’m teaching World History to 10th graders, I decided I needed to learn more about this part of the world, and a fellow teacher recommended John Charles Chasteen’s Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. I read the second edition, published in 2006, but the most recent edition is the fourth, which just came out in June, 2016. Chasteen’s book is an excellent overview of Latin American history from 1492, when the Old and New Worlds first collided, to the present day. As an overview, it certainly helped me to understand more about the historical trends of Latin America, and the difficult journey that many countries in the region have faced since winning their independence nearly two hundred years ago. There were many people and events that I wanted to learn more about-for example, Simon Bolivar, who gets the briefest of mentions in the text, or Getulio Vargas, the longtime President of Brazil who committed suicide in office in 1954. It would have been nice to get a little more insight into some of these leading players, but I understand the difficulty in recapping five hundred years of history for more than twenty countries in less than 350 pages. If you’re looking to start learning about the rich and vibrant history of Latin America, Born in Blood and Fire is a very good place to start.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Masters

    This book was the required reading for a Latin American history class I took in college. I found it a fascinating read, and I spent much of time comparing and contrasting our own American history (U.S.) with that of Latin American. From conquest, to the Castas race hierarchy, to Latin America’s fight for independence, and Latin America’s consequential emergence onto the would stage, I found it very interesting. Unfortunately, the latter half of book was peppered with the author’s own leftist vie This book was the required reading for a Latin American history class I took in college. I found it a fascinating read, and I spent much of time comparing and contrasting our own American history (U.S.) with that of Latin American. From conquest, to the Castas race hierarchy, to Latin America’s fight for independence, and Latin America’s consequential emergence onto the would stage, I found it very interesting. Unfortunately, the latter half of book was peppered with the author’s own leftist views and the hero worship of Castro in the chapters on Cuba was almost unpalatable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Malonie

    This is exactly what I wanted, a basic framework history of Latin America. This truly is a concise history so if you are looking for a more in depth analysis then this is not the book for you. I thought this book did a good job of tracking trends throughout Latin America and it left me wanting to find out more.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    A Eurocentric history that shades into one focusing heavily on the role of the United States as the author moves through the time, this book could have benefited greatly from an expanded focus on the indigenous and African peoples of Latin America (the mestizos get some representation, though perhaps not enough). Also largely absent are voices of peasants, as this is definitely a top down history. History is more than a recounting of the actions of great men, though credit is due to the author f A Eurocentric history that shades into one focusing heavily on the role of the United States as the author moves through the time, this book could have benefited greatly from an expanded focus on the indigenous and African peoples of Latin America (the mestizos get some representation, though perhaps not enough). Also largely absent are voices of peasants, as this is definitely a top down history. History is more than a recounting of the actions of great men, though credit is due to the author for including brief passages on women and also dipping his toes into cultural waters with discussions of Latin American novelists and poets, though a multitude of other cultural practices are ignored. Overall, Born in Blood and Fire reads like an introductory textbook to Latin American politics that, while deftly tracing the history of Latin American government and to a lesser extent economy, leaves out important components of the large regions history in the form of groups and topics that do not fit Chasteen's chosen focus.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Worlitz

    This is a very readable history. It is perfect for those new to the subject. I will use this in class into the future.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    A history of a continent and a half cannot be contained in 329 pages (plus sources), but Chasteen gives it his best shot. This a fine introductory text, and more enjoyable to read than Kiernan's Viet Nam, but it lacks nuance or detail. Chasteen traces two major narratives through the many nations of Central and South America. The first is their tripartite cultural heritage, combining in various ways Iberian colonizers, Africa slaves, and indigenous people. The second is swings between conservativ A history of a continent and a half cannot be contained in 329 pages (plus sources), but Chasteen gives it his best shot. This a fine introductory text, and more enjoyable to read than Kiernan's Viet Nam, but it lacks nuance or detail. Chasteen traces two major narratives through the many nations of Central and South America. The first is their tripartite cultural heritage, combining in various ways Iberian colonizers, Africa slaves, and indigenous people. The second is swings between conservative and modernizing forces. Conservative politics, whether Catholic or based around a cuadillo strongmen, lead to stagnation and revolt. The modernizers, whether early 19th century nationalist revolutionaries, 20th century nationalists of both liberal and Marxist stripes, and 21st century neoliberals, make grand promises that never seem to pan out for the rural majorities of these countries. I get the difficulty of writing a synthetic history covering millions of square miles and hundreds of years in a reasonable page count. And there are some things which I like, like short "counter-narrative" chapters that showcases countervailing trends. But I have little sense of South America as informed by its history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Assigned reading for Latin American History at Augusta University, and I know have a much better appreciation for the history and cultures of the Latin American people. I also have a better idea of the suffering and hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by American interference. Administrations, CIA coups, State Department sanctioning of the deaths of thousands...mostly due to our war against communism. An eye-opening history of an often belittled people.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Really great, very concise, history of Latin America. The author does a great job of tying several centuries of complex economic, political, and social history together to bring us to the end of the 20th century. The book doesn't pull any punches from his take on the European and Western influence and how this has (and continues to) affected the stability today. Really great, very concise, history of Latin America. The author does a great job of tying several centuries of complex economic, political, and social history together to bring us to the end of the 20th century. The book doesn't pull any punches from his take on the European and Western influence and how this has (and continues to) affected the stability today.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Abraham Rincon

    I read this book for a Latin America history course. At times, the author rambled on a lot without being able to cut to the chase. The reading was moderately entertaining, but this is not your typical history book. It offers explanations in layman's terms for dense subjects, so it isn't very wordy. Overall, I enjoyed reading it. I read this book for a Latin America history course. At times, the author rambled on a lot without being able to cut to the chase. The reading was moderately entertaining, but this is not your typical history book. It offers explanations in layman's terms for dense subjects, so it isn't very wordy. Overall, I enjoyed reading it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan Mcnerney

    Most engaging history book I've read in years. Great prep for a trip to South America. Most engaging history book I've read in years. Great prep for a trip to South America.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    First of all, the second edition is riddle with typographical errors and annotation errors. That aside, the last chapter of the book (which deals with the most recent events--the 90's) is so skimpy! It's as though Chasteen simply got tired of writing and let the book sort of dissolve. It's decent as the barest survey. It's written to be read and understood easily, but Chasteen glosses over a lot of key event. That, and his bias is all over every page. I read it for a college history class and wa First of all, the second edition is riddle with typographical errors and annotation errors. That aside, the last chapter of the book (which deals with the most recent events--the 90's) is so skimpy! It's as though Chasteen simply got tired of writing and let the book sort of dissolve. It's decent as the barest survey. It's written to be read and understood easily, but Chasteen glosses over a lot of key event. That, and his bias is all over every page. I read it for a college history class and was really quite disappointed with it. It was laid out well (time period wise), but seemed like a mediocre effort in general. 2 stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Calderon

    This is a must-read for anyone who wants a crash-course on Latin American history. The progression and condensed explanation of the hallmarks are simple, yet comprehensive enough to give anyone a real perspective above the average person. Easy and entertaining to read, although some may not approve of Chasteen's humor and bias that is very clear. Very worthwhile to those wanting to make sense about the current state of affairs in Latin America, or possible futures. This is a must-read for anyone who wants a crash-course on Latin American history. The progression and condensed explanation of the hallmarks are simple, yet comprehensive enough to give anyone a real perspective above the average person. Easy and entertaining to read, although some may not approve of Chasteen's humor and bias that is very clear. Very worthwhile to those wanting to make sense about the current state of affairs in Latin America, or possible futures.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    Clean and concise, this enthusiastic history is a handy summary of Latin America's colorful and tumultuous journey over the past half millennium. Of course, as the author hints at in the introduction, the task at hand is an impossible one--five hundred years of a continent's history can hardly be fitted into such a small space--and the text does often feel a bit too glossy. But this is a worthy and useful venture none-the-less, providing a great jumping off point for the uninitiated. Clean and concise, this enthusiastic history is a handy summary of Latin America's colorful and tumultuous journey over the past half millennium. Of course, as the author hints at in the introduction, the task at hand is an impossible one--five hundred years of a continent's history can hardly be fitted into such a small space--and the text does often feel a bit too glossy. But this is a worthy and useful venture none-the-less, providing a great jumping off point for the uninitiated.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Sharp

    I bought this book as my "textbook" for a history of Latin America class at the University of Michigan. Please don't be fooled, this is no textbook. This wonderfully detailed and easy-to-read history perfectly displays the wonderful continent that is Latin America. Ths book will still be on my bookshelf when I am on my death bed. I bought this book as my "textbook" for a history of Latin America class at the University of Michigan. Please don't be fooled, this is no textbook. This wonderfully detailed and easy-to-read history perfectly displays the wonderful continent that is Latin America. Ths book will still be on my bookshelf when I am on my death bed.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I wanted a survey of Latin American history, and that's what this book represents. Well written and relatively impartial, I felt like I came away with a good sense of the currents of Latin American history. It's readable and the bang-for-the-buck is pretty high. This could have been denser in any section, but I think that's what specialist books are for. I wanted a survey of Latin American history, and that's what this book represents. Well written and relatively impartial, I felt like I came away with a good sense of the currents of Latin American history. It's readable and the bang-for-the-buck is pretty high. This could have been denser in any section, but I think that's what specialist books are for.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Monith Ilavarasan

    Overall, a really good overview. Sometimes the book shoots off into tangents and hops around abruptly, but honestly that might be the by product of trying to synthesize nearly a millennia of history into a little over 300 pages. Definitely a good introduction into the development of Latin and Central America.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    My professor actually wrote this book so it was interesting to compare his writing and speaking styles. This book moves very quickly and is very easy to read. It gives a clear, concise history of Latin America and helped me understand more of today's issues. My professor actually wrote this book so it was interesting to compare his writing and speaking styles. This book moves very quickly and is very easy to read. It gives a clear, concise history of Latin America and helped me understand more of today's issues.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zahraa

    Haven't really finished all of it since we were reading excerpts for a class. I don't think it is possible to read and understand it with no prior knowledge of the topic or no one to explain/discuss the events. Very helpful source for papers though. Haven't really finished all of it since we were reading excerpts for a class. I don't think it is possible to read and understand it with no prior knowledge of the topic or no one to explain/discuss the events. Very helpful source for papers though.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colin Kemmis

    Really interesting backstories, summaries, and leaders in Latin America. All the kids are reading this one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Georgia

    I learned so much about Latin America and this was beautifully presented. Dr. Howard would indeed be proud.

  24. 4 out of 5

    AskHistorians

    This work gives an overview of Latin American history and is remarkably readable. It is an excellent starting point for anyone new to the study of Latin American history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Gibson

    Very well-written, Chasteen jumps around a bit but he does a great job explaining the social and political history of Latin American countries.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sophia Pandelidis

    Great introduction to Latin American history for those with little background. Certainly has a biased tone, but the book reads very smoothly and provides a good overview.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Turner

    I read this for the second time on a trip to Guatemala. An excellent introduction to the historical processes behind social, economic, and racial inequality in Latin America.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    was a interesting book

  29. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    All together this took me a year to finish so that might tell you something about the book! Actually there is just so much material covered and so much I did not know which I think slowed me down. I know very little about South America and this book is a really good summary of the history of each of those countries plus the countries in Central America and Cuba, Haiti, etc. The format is somewhat reminiscent of a textbook (it was used in one of my daughter's classes) but I think it is a very goo All together this took me a year to finish so that might tell you something about the book! Actually there is just so much material covered and so much I did not know which I think slowed me down. I know very little about South America and this book is a really good summary of the history of each of those countries plus the countries in Central America and Cuba, Haiti, etc. The format is somewhat reminiscent of a textbook (it was used in one of my daughter's classes) but I think it is a very good intro to the complete history of Latin America.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Egerer

    This book says "concise" in the title and so I feel wrong for faulting it. It's too short on the narrative, on the economics, on the heroes and villains of Latin America, and largely focuses on the racial issues at hand. You'll learn things from this book, but not too much; and when you do hear a name dropped or a big happening you'll find yourself feeling you weren't taught much. It's nice to know a little about the racial issues of Latin America but good grief -- this isn't the MAIN thing we n This book says "concise" in the title and so I feel wrong for faulting it. It's too short on the narrative, on the economics, on the heroes and villains of Latin America, and largely focuses on the racial issues at hand. You'll learn things from this book, but not too much; and when you do hear a name dropped or a big happening you'll find yourself feeling you weren't taught much. It's nice to know a little about the racial issues of Latin America but good grief -- this isn't the MAIN thing we need to know. Low-brow SJWs will probably find this book deep.

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