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

  • Introduction
  • General Works
  • Government and Administration
  • Social Actors and Interactions
  • Religion and Religiosity
  • Women, Family, and Gender Relations
  • Law, Legal Jurisdiction, and Legal Actors
  • Economy, Market, and Production
  • Nature, Science, and Health
  • Architecture, Arts, and Cultural Expressions
  • Revolution and Independence
  • Print Primary Sources

Latin American Studies Colonial Lima
Judith Mansilla
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 February 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0291


By the mid-sixteenth century, Lima, or the City of the Kings, had become the main political, economic, religious, and cultural center of the Spanish monarchy in South America, just a few decades after its foundation by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Pope Paul III promoted Lima to a bishopric in 1541 and an archbishopric in 1546, while the Crown elevated it to the capital of the new viceroyalty of Peru, created in 1542. These pontifical and royal grants led Lima to host the principal political, religious, and commercial institutions in the viceroyalty, which comprised modern Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and parts of Chile, Argentina, Panama, and Venezuela, until the eighteenth century. Lima’s geographical position in the middle of South America’s western coast converted it into the gate of the region’s riches. Global commercial and communication networks expanded over the Andes thanks to the nearby port of Callao, which became the most important in the South Sea, as the Spaniards called the Pacific Ocean. In almost three decades of Spanish control, Lima underwent various transformations due to migration, internal and external political and military conflicts, diseases, and other recurrent or episodic events. The early decades of Spanish conquest and colonization witnessed the reconfiguration of the urban and rural landscapes and the social elements within them. Lima witnessed the permanent and temporary presence of individuals from diverse parts of the New World, Africa, Asia, and Europe, shaping the city’s dynamic and cosmopolitan character. The encomenderos’ civil wars, the discovery of silver and quicksilver mines, Viceroy Toledo’s reforms, the first pirate attacks, and epidemic outbreaks shaped the first century of Lima’s colonial rule. By the seventeenth century, Lima consolidated its nuclear position within western South America, which endured another wave of transformation with the end of the Habsburg dynasty and the forthcoming introduction of the Bourbon reforms in the eighteenth century. The political crisis that Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula produced in the Spanish monarchy accentuated the discontent produced by the Bourbon reforms among the population in Lima and other provinces. Its political position in the Spanish monarchy motivated royalist and patriot troops to fight to control Lima, which functioned as a military logistic center and battleground for both sides during the process of Peru’s independence. The studies cited in this bibliography explore the social diversity that characterized Lima’s population and their cultural contribution to shaping one of the most significant urban centers in Spanish America through centuries that involved meaningful changes and continuities.

General Works

There are a few academic studies about colonial Lima specifically. Doering and Villena 1992 offers an overview of Lima’s history, describing colonial Lima’s configuration and early urban and social development. The edited volumes O’Phelan Godoy 2015, Maticorena, et al. 2010, and Gutierrez 2005 provide invaluable contributions that permit one to grasp various aspects of colonial Lima. Engel 2019 enhances the accessibility to the topic with a series of articles on Lima’s place within the larger Spanish Empire and beyond.

  • Engel, Emily A., ed. A Companion to Early Modern Lima. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004335363

    The works in this edited volume offer vibrant research about Lima’s position within the expansive Spanish monarchy and the early modern world. The authors examine the political, economic, religious, and social elements that contributed to Lima’s development into an urban center that connected the Pacific and Atlantic networks, whose influences expanded over the Andes.

  • Doering, Juan Gunther, and Guillermo Lohmann Villena. Lima. Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992.

    This work describes Lima’s geographical, social, political, and economic composition since pre-Hispanic times. The second section covers the period the city lived under colonial rule, from its Spanish foundation in the early sixteenth century until it transitioned into the national period after independence in the early nineteenth century.

  • Gutierrez, Laura, ed. Lima en el siglo XVI. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2005.

    The studies in this edited volume cover different aspects of colonial Lima, emphasizing social and cultural topics. Its geographical and physical section is another significant contribution from other similar works.

  • Maticorena Estrada, Miguel, Carlos del Aguila, Richard Chugue, and Antonio Coello, eds. Historia De Lima: XVII Coloquio de Historia de Lima 2010. Lima: Fondo Editorial UNMSM, 2010.

    This edited volume comprises over a dozen studies on Lima’s colonial secular and religious administration, commerce, and social activities. These papers resulted from the XVII Coloquio de Historia de Lima organized by the author at Lima’s University Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

  • O’Phelan Godoy, Scarlett. El Perú en el siglo XVIII: La Era Borbónica. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica, Instituto Riva-Agüero, 2015.

    Most of the chapters in this volume examine the impact of the Bourbon reforms on Lima since the second half of the eighteenth century. The reforms affected administrative, religious, and commercial institutions and individuals that endured cultural and political transformations.

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