The Contemporary History of Latin America (Latin America in Translation)
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Dornghi covers the period well in detail but the history is ongoing
"The Contemporary History of Latin America" is divided in nine chapters and an epilogue. At the beginning of each one, the author gives us a general overview of the economic and social developments common to the whole region, and afterwards he studies the political developments in each country. The book begins by an analysis of "The colonial heritage", and afterwards studies "The crisis of independence" (1810-1825), "The early national period" (1825-1850), the "Emergence of the neocolonial order" (1850-1880), the "Maturity of the neocolonial order" (1880-1930), and the problematic periods that followed: from 1930 to 1945 (economic crisis and preparations for the Second World War), from 1945 to 1960 (the postwar period), and from 1960 to 1970. Halperin Donghi also talks about events that happened not so long ago, and tries to be impartial. In my opinion, he succeeds...
This book isn't exhaustive, but it doesn't pretend to be so. In my opinion, it is a very good introduction to the History of Latin America, but it is only that: an introduction. You will need to go on reading, and studying, if you want to learn more about each country. On the other hand, even if you need to read more books, you might as well start by reading this one, because it is a classic on the subject.
"The Contemporary History of Latin America" isn't particularly entertaining, but it is very useful, and I think you should buy it, if you are interested in the history of the region. I prefer other books written by the author (for example "La democracia de masas"), but I am aware of the fact that this book is extraordinarily practical, and I appreciate it as a more than adequate framework for my studies regarding the Contemporary History of Latin America. I bought it, and I use it as a reference book. I advise you to do the same :)
The history of Latin America encompasses three periods: the colonial period, the emergence of the nation state & the post WWI history of the nations. The idea of a shared "latin american history" for the first two time periods make sense, but only the fact that the nation states developed individual identities quite late in the time period covered makes the third part feel like anything more then a series of tacked on national histories.
As an American, it was interesting to read a take on U.S./Latin American relations that left beyond the Naomi Wolf style histronics of "Disaster Capitalism." I came away from this look feeling a little better about the U.S.'s mixed track record in Latin American foreign policy: It's quite impossible to blame the U.S. for any long term problems in the region- issues of economic underdevelopment and unstable politics have plagued Latin America from the very beginning.
Even then, I found the text incredibly boring and had to fight sleep while reading it. He could have added some spice to the text by mentioning a few anecdotes, some colorful examples, some interesting comparisons, etc. I gave it 3 stars because the text is too dry and this is unnecessary and undesirable considering its subject matter.