In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Peru

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Textbooks
  • Reference Guides and Online Sources
  • Published Primary Sources
  • Document Collections
  • Pre-Hispanic Peru
  • Spanish Conquest
  • Colonial Governance and Spanish Settlers
  • Indigenous People under Colonial Rule
  • Bourbon Reforms
  • Indian Rebellions of the 18th Century
  • Wars for Independence
  • Africans and Afro-Peruvians
  • Agrarian and Rural History
  • Cities and Urban Life
  • Economy and Commerce
  • Gender and Family History
  • Language and Literacy
  • Mining
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Religion and Spirituality
  • Visual and Material Culture

Atlantic History Peru
Emily Berquist Soule
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0262


Geographically, Peru’s closest point to the Atlantic Ocean is the tiny island of Anapia, in Lake Titicaca. They lie over 3,000 kilometers away from where the waters of the Atlantic touch the South American coast on the beaches of Saõ Paolo, Brazil. Geographically, Peru borders the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic, but its early modern history cannot be told separately from that of the Spanish Empire, which was an integral part of the early modern Atlantic world. Peru’s colonial people were not isolated traditionalists; they were active participants in the network of Atlantic empires. To this global community they brought incredible wealth from silver mines and, just as famously, fantasies of exotic natives and their romanticized past, which permeated early modern European culture. In many ways, the historical literature on Peru through the Independence period shares much with the scholarship on New Spain and the more peripheral areas of colonial Spanish America. However, the economic and social ties between the United States and Mexico—and the resulting linkages to the world economy—have resulted in a more extensive academic exchange, including a fuller historiography. Although the current generation of young Peruvian scholars is publishing outstanding works of great importance to the field, academic culture in Peru remains less developed than that of Mexico, and fewer foreign academics choose Peru as their area of specialization. Scholarship on Peru in the colonial or early modern period carries one important distinction from the literature on New Spain that makes it particularly dynamic. Although the native peoples of pre-Hispanic Peru had highly advanced societies with transportation infrastructure, military mobilization, and complex systems of taxation, they lacked the native systems of pictographic writing that many Mesoamerican cultures developed. Instead, many of Peru’s indigenous peoples recorded data about their history and their societies in knotted cords of fiber called khipus, which leading scholars are only now beginning to understand. This lack of pre-Hispanic and early conquest sources written from the native point of view has shaped historical methodologies from the first generation of the Spanish conquest through today. In order to access indigenous perspectives, innovative scholars have borrowed from anthropological, archaeological, and art-historical methodologies to access indigenous perspectives. This interdisciplinarity of Peruvian history in the early modern period has, since the early 2000s, produced some of the most groundbreaking historical scholarship on early modern Peru. It also bears mentioning that the other Andean nations of Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia were part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until 1739 (1776 for the case of Bolivia), which makes their colonial history deeply integrated in many ways. The literature surveyed here reflects this comprehensive historical identity of Peru. The national or modern period studies that today are such a vibrant area of Latin American scholarship are beyond the scope of this article, as once Peru separated from Spain, its ties to the Atlantic world dissipated.

General Overviews and Textbooks

While Peru is given adequate coverage in the leading reference works on colonial Spanish America, there are also several textbooks and overviews that focus specifically on Peru and the Andes. For general orientations to Peruvian history, Henderson 2013 Hünefeldt 2004, Klaren 2000, and Mörner 1985 offer good foundations. Hünefeldt is the most accessible for lower-division undergraduates. Starn, et al. 2005 provides a chronologically arranged overview seen through short critical essays by leading scholars in Peruvian history. Contreras and Cueto 2000 is a solidly researched and clearly written Spanish-language text. Most engaging is Andrien 2001, which utilizes the best of the multidisciplinary scholarship in the field to survey the history of native peoples through independence. Essential for scholars is Brading 1991, which deals with all of Spanish America, though it is generally stronger for the history of New Spain.

  • Andrien, Kenneth. Andean Worlds: Indigenous History, Culture, and Consciousness under Spanish Rule, 1532–1825. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.

    Interdisciplinary overview of indigenous peoples in Andean history. Draws on archaeology, art history, geography, and literary studies. Ideal for classroom use.

  • Brading, David. The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492–1867. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    Key resource for students and scholars of the colonial, independence, and early national periods. Masterful chronologically organized intellectual biography that definitively demonstrates how scholars, reformers, travelers, and ecclesiastics in Spanish America created a unique intellectual and political culture that drew on European resources and precedents to foster a uniquely “Spanish American” identity.

  • Contreras, Carlos, and Marcos Cueto. Historia del Perú Contemporáneo. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2000.

    Important textbook by this leading economist from Lima’s Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) and a historical researcher from Lima’s renowned Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP), covering from independence to Fujimori period.

  • Henderson, Peter. The Course of Andean History. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013.

    Chronologically organized survey of the pre-Hispanic era through 2000s, intended for student use. Covers Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, with occasional mention of Venezuela, Chile, and Argentina.

  • Hünefeldt, Christine. A Brief History of Peru. New York: Facts on File, 2004.

    Created for secondary school students, but could be useful as a basic overview for a lower-level university class. Covers from the pre-Hispanic period to Alejandro Toledo’s presidency in the early 2000s.

  • Klaren, Peter F. Peru: Society and Nationhood in the Andes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

    Overview that pays special attention to historiographical debates and gives a long durée approach to Andean history, emphasizing the tensions between white elites and mestizo, native, and Afro-Peruvian groups. Chapters 2–4 focus on the conquest, colonial, and independence periods.

  • Mörner, Magnus. The Andean Past: Land, Societies, and Conflicts. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

    Synthetic overview of the Andean nations of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru that ranges from pre-Hispanic times to the 1980s. Extensive focus on vertical integration in Andean landscapes, the importance of silver mining in regional colonial encounters, and the caudillo era.

  • Starn, Orin, Carlos Iván Degregori, and Robin Kirk, eds. The Peru Reader: History, Culture, and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

    In keeping with Duke’s Latin American Reader series, includes both excerpts of primary sources translated into English and relevant short articles by leading scholars. Pertinent chapters on “The Ancient Civilizations,” “Conquest and Colonial Rule,” and “Republican Peru.”

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