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Sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers described Peru as a land filled with gold and silver, a place of untold wealth. Nineteenth-century travelers wrote of soaring Andean peaks plunging into luxuriant Amazonian canyons of orchids, pythons, and jaguars. The early-twentieth-century American adventurer Hiram Bingham told of the raging rivers and the wild jungles he traversed on Sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers described Peru as a land filled with gold and silver, a place of untold wealth. Nineteenth-century travelers wrote of soaring Andean peaks plunging into luxuriant Amazonian canyons of orchids, pythons, and jaguars. The early-twentieth-century American adventurer Hiram Bingham told of the raging rivers and the wild jungles he traversed on his way to rediscovering the “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu. Seventy years later, news crews from ABC and CBS traveled to Peru to report on merciless terrorists, starving peasants, and Colombian drug runners in the “white gold” rush of the coca trade. As often as not, Peru has been portrayed in broad extremes: as the land of the richest treasures, the bloodiest conquest, the most poignant ballads, and the most violent revolutionaries. This revised and updated second edition of the bestselling Peru Reader offers a deeper understanding of the complex country that lies behind these claims.Unparalleled in scope, the volume covers Peru’s history from its extraordinary pre-Columbian civilizations to its citizens’ twenty-first-century struggles to achieve dignity and justice in a multicultural nation where Andean, African, Amazonian, Asian, and European traditions meet. The collection presents a vast array of essays, folklore, historical documents, poetry, songs, short stories, autobiographical accounts, and photographs. Works by contemporary Peruvian intellectuals and politicians appear alongside accounts of those whose voices are less often heard—peasants, street vendors, maids, Amazonian Indians, and African-Peruvians. Including some of the most insightful pieces of Western journalism and scholarship about Peru, the selections provide the traveler and specialist alike with a thorough introduction to the country’s astonishing past and challenging present.


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Sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers described Peru as a land filled with gold and silver, a place of untold wealth. Nineteenth-century travelers wrote of soaring Andean peaks plunging into luxuriant Amazonian canyons of orchids, pythons, and jaguars. The early-twentieth-century American adventurer Hiram Bingham told of the raging rivers and the wild jungles he traversed on Sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers described Peru as a land filled with gold and silver, a place of untold wealth. Nineteenth-century travelers wrote of soaring Andean peaks plunging into luxuriant Amazonian canyons of orchids, pythons, and jaguars. The early-twentieth-century American adventurer Hiram Bingham told of the raging rivers and the wild jungles he traversed on his way to rediscovering the “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu. Seventy years later, news crews from ABC and CBS traveled to Peru to report on merciless terrorists, starving peasants, and Colombian drug runners in the “white gold” rush of the coca trade. As often as not, Peru has been portrayed in broad extremes: as the land of the richest treasures, the bloodiest conquest, the most poignant ballads, and the most violent revolutionaries. This revised and updated second edition of the bestselling Peru Reader offers a deeper understanding of the complex country that lies behind these claims.Unparalleled in scope, the volume covers Peru’s history from its extraordinary pre-Columbian civilizations to its citizens’ twenty-first-century struggles to achieve dignity and justice in a multicultural nation where Andean, African, Amazonian, Asian, and European traditions meet. The collection presents a vast array of essays, folklore, historical documents, poetry, songs, short stories, autobiographical accounts, and photographs. Works by contemporary Peruvian intellectuals and politicians appear alongside accounts of those whose voices are less often heard—peasants, street vendors, maids, Amazonian Indians, and African-Peruvians. Including some of the most insightful pieces of Western journalism and scholarship about Peru, the selections provide the traveler and specialist alike with a thorough introduction to the country’s astonishing past and challenging present.

30 review for The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This is an ideal book to read in preparation for a trip to Peru. As it says in its subtitle, The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics covers the whole spectrum of the country in its 512 pages, with a particular emphasis on culture and politics, particularly in the Twentieth Century. Orin Starn and his co-editors have done a sterling job of bringing together so much material that is fascinating. I can see myself as mining the books bibliography for years to come. In addition to the usual Inca a This is an ideal book to read in preparation for a trip to Peru. As it says in its subtitle, The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics covers the whole spectrum of the country in its 512 pages, with a particular emphasis on culture and politics, particularly in the Twentieth Century. Orin Starn and his co-editors have done a sterling job of bringing together so much material that is fascinating. I can see myself as mining the books bibliography for years to come. In addition to the usual Inca and Pre-Inca history, there are essays and poems about socialism and communism, the Shining Path guerrillas, the "War on Drugs" attempt to shut down coca production, a cholera epidemic, the Alberto Fujimori presidency, and a mythical piece about the Aguaruna of the Amazon. There is even a hefty excerpt from Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa's Conversation in the Cathedral, perhaps the greatest of Peruvian novels. There is a threatening speech from Abimael Guzman, founder of the Shining Path movement:The flesh of the reactionaries will rot away, converted into raggedy threads, and this black filth will sink into the mud, and that which remains will be burned and the ashes scattered by the winds of the earth so that only the sinister memory will remain of that which will never return, because it neither can nor should.In reality, that is pretty much what happened to the Shining Path movement: They became a "sinister memory." As for Guzman, he is rotting in prison until the Second Coming. In his book Conquest of the Incas, John Hemming gives one possible reason why it was so easy for the Spanish to conquer the Incas:It was during these campaigns that Huayna-Capac was first informed of the appearance of tall strangers from the sea. He was destined never to see any Europeans. His army and court were struck by a violent epidemic that killed Huayna-Capac in a delirious fever, at some time between 1525 and 1527. The disease may have been malaria, but it could have been smallpox. The Spaniards brought smallpox with them from Europe, and it spread fiercely around the Caribbean among peoples who had no immunity. It could easily have swept from tribe to tribe across Colombia and struck the Inca armies long before the Spaniards themselves sailed down the coast. The epidemic "consumed the greater part" of the Inca court including Huayna-Capac's probable heir, Ninan Cuyuchi. "Countless thousands of common people also died."I could go on like this for pages. This book is absorbing in its multiplicity of viewpoints, all pointing like signposts to more complete material one has not previously considered.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Shamkablam

    Mash-up history of Peru with each section uniquely authored, fiction, poetry, history documented.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Great set of short essays and excerpts.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Great preparation for a trip to Peru. I liked the Inca history but also the latter day history as well. Great sense of Shining Path's effect on the country. Great preparation for a trip to Peru. I liked the Inca history but also the latter day history as well. Great sense of Shining Path's effect on the country.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anders Reynolds

    Indispensable if you're a foreigner traveling to Peru. Indispensable if you're a foreigner traveling to Peru.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ludo-Van

    Excellent collection of essays, poetry and other documents. It covers the history of Peru until around 1995. Highly recommended. It lacks a timeline of Peru history tough, which would have been of use for the reader ignorant on the topic (I had to read it in parallel to wikipedia)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rick Browne

    I'm learning about Peru, and much of this book was quite educational. I was not as enamored with some of the more literary chapters, but I knew what I was getting. A good book to pick and choose from. I'm learning about Peru, and much of this book was quite educational. I was not as enamored with some of the more literary chapters, but I knew what I was getting. A good book to pick and choose from.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jess Monnier

    Wonderful anthology!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    A pretty good survey of Peruvian history and culture. The pre-Inca history and story of the Inca period was very good and gave me an excellent background, but I felt very underinformed about anything past the conquest. Part of this was my not finishing the book by the time we left (oops, so take this review with a grain of salt), but the organization beyond the conquest made it hard to get what I needed. There were interesting passages from major political speeches by such important figures as Fu A pretty good survey of Peruvian history and culture. The pre-Inca history and story of the Inca period was very good and gave me an excellent background, but I felt very underinformed about anything past the conquest. Part of this was my not finishing the book by the time we left (oops, so take this review with a grain of salt), but the organization beyond the conquest made it hard to get what I needed. There were interesting passages from major political speeches by such important figures as Fujimori and Guzman, but even with the little introductory paragraph that every piece in the book had, I felt many of them lacked context. Also, it looked like someone read through the final version of the book and said "Crap! You guys forgot to talk about women!" So, they added a feminist historian to collect a few pieces and scatter them through the book. I'm not saying those aren't important (at least not openly), but they felt forced in. If you're heading to Peru this is a good survey, but if you're really interested in Peruvian history, culture, politics, literature, etc. there are probably much better and less choppy sources.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Since this book is an anthology that covers a wide range of subjects, with each chapter by a different author, it's going to come across as at least a little uneven. Some of the chapters were pretty tedious and it took me a while to settle in and appreciate what the editors had assembled. I came into this book knowing very little at all about Peru in the centuries after the Conquest, and The Peru Reader filled in a lot of the gaps in a quirky and unconventional way. Much of the Inca stuff in the Since this book is an anthology that covers a wide range of subjects, with each chapter by a different author, it's going to come across as at least a little uneven. Some of the chapters were pretty tedious and it took me a while to settle in and appreciate what the editors had assembled. I came into this book knowing very little at all about Peru in the centuries after the Conquest, and The Peru Reader filled in a lot of the gaps in a quirky and unconventional way. Much of the Inca stuff in the early chapters was unfortunately dry, and the book only briefly mentioned that Peru gained independence in the early 19th Century, strangely providing no details at all. But things got most interesting when we got to the 20th Century. Politics, culture, cocaine, The Shining Path. Poetry, short fiction, references to food and music. This book was not really an easy read, but it ultimately proved worthwhile and I'm glad I read it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Armstrong

    This was a very good read - it gave me a comprehensive background for understanding a little bit of Peruvian history. This is the third of the Duke University Press Readers that I've read (the others were on South Africa and Brazil). I love the heterogeneity of the chapters - with documents from history, narratives, literature, and more. Also, the introductions to each chapter provide a way into the material. What struck me most from reading this compilation was the substantial estrangement betw This was a very good read - it gave me a comprehensive background for understanding a little bit of Peruvian history. This is the third of the Duke University Press Readers that I've read (the others were on South Africa and Brazil). I love the heterogeneity of the chapters - with documents from history, narratives, literature, and more. Also, the introductions to each chapter provide a way into the material. What struck me most from reading this compilation was the substantial estrangement between the Spanish influenced coastal areas and the indigenous peoples inland, particularly in the rain forests and the Andes. Also knowing about the shantytowns in Lima gave me a perspective that I would never get from just scurrying from the airport to the hotel and back. I wish Duke had readers for all the countries in the world. I'm certainly going to read those that pertain to any future countries that I might be traveling to.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I'm not sure why a book that includes both a soup kitchen menu and an account of a coked-up soldier raping and "wasting" peasants categorizes itself as travel. Maybe it the travel category moves more product than the history or culture categories that this book belongs in. Overall though, a pretty easy to read, enjoyable survey of the major points in Peru's history and culture.for me a very good introduction to most of the major events that have shaped Peru through the years. The book was a bit I'm not sure why a book that includes both a soup kitchen menu and an account of a coked-up soldier raping and "wasting" peasants categorizes itself as travel. Maybe it the travel category moves more product than the history or culture categories that this book belongs in. Overall though, a pretty easy to read, enjoyable survey of the major points in Peru's history and culture.for me a very good introduction to most of the major events that have shaped Peru through the years. The book was a bit light on the revolution and subsequent wars, not really providing much in the way of context or explanation. The pre-conquest and conquest periods are really well covered. And there is TONS of info on the Shining Path and Fujimori period.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Teo

    Excellent portrayal of Peru, not aiming to be exhaustive obviously, but managing to give a comprehensive picture of the history and politics of this fascinating people. Very entertaining and captivating, gathering so many different voices, from traditional Inca tales and legends to excerpts from Llosa and feminist manifestos. "Although artistry abounds in Peru's National Museum, where Paracas weavings hang near the paintings of the Liman Julia Codesino and the Cajamarcan José Sabogal, it also exi Excellent portrayal of Peru, not aiming to be exhaustive obviously, but managing to give a comprehensive picture of the history and politics of this fascinating people. Very entertaining and captivating, gathering so many different voices, from traditional Inca tales and legends to excerpts from Llosa and feminist manifestos. "Although artistry abounds in Peru's National Museum, where Paracas weavings hang near the paintings of the Liman Julia Codesino and the Cajamarcan José Sabogal, it also exists on the street, at the church altar, and, for those who see the artistic in the everyday, in the tight weave of a Cajamarcan straw hat and the elaborate pyramids if cans and boxes in a vendor's stall at an Arequipan market."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    A compendium of mostly primary sources, the book covers Peru's history from pre-Inca to the Republic to Shining Path to Peru's current struggle to balance a multicultural nation. It was surprisingly readable as each historical period was summarized and each selection was introduced with a paragraph of background information. Meeting the challenge of choosing from the entire Peruvian history, the editors succeeded in creating a well-balanced book that included sources not necessarily considered a A compendium of mostly primary sources, the book covers Peru's history from pre-Inca to the Republic to Shining Path to Peru's current struggle to balance a multicultural nation. It was surprisingly readable as each historical period was summarized and each selection was introduced with a paragraph of background information. Meeting the challenge of choosing from the entire Peruvian history, the editors succeeded in creating a well-balanced book that included sources not necessarily considered academic...like rappers, peasants, and guerillas. I lugged it with me on the subway because I couldn't put it down... a rarity in a social science text.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    A wonderful collection of academic articles about Peru beginning with Pre-Inca civilizations all the way to the political challenges facing modern day Peru. A bit dense for a mere bedtime read but loved it as we explored the different regions of Peru for two weeks. I found it very helpful and enlightening as I absorbed Peru's rich history, varying topography and layering cultural traditions -- ie. Amazon vs Andes....cities vs. rural...Cechequa and their relationship with Inca history....Impact o A wonderful collection of academic articles about Peru beginning with Pre-Inca civilizations all the way to the political challenges facing modern day Peru. A bit dense for a mere bedtime read but loved it as we explored the different regions of Peru for two weeks. I found it very helpful and enlightening as I absorbed Peru's rich history, varying topography and layering cultural traditions -- ie. Amazon vs Andes....cities vs. rural...Cechequa and their relationship with Inca history....Impact of the Conquistadors.....Peru as a republic.....In context of time and place I couldn't put it down.

  16. 4 out of 5

    AskHistorians

    These are a series of country studies that provide a valuable overview of various Latin American countries. They use both primary and secondary sources by eyewitnesses and important scholars respectively to illuminate key periods of each country’s history. They also include a trove of images, maps, and fine art. Each volume focuses on a single country. Currently, Duke has published readers about the Dominican Republic, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, Ecuador, Perú, Costa Rica, Cuba, México, Argentin These are a series of country studies that provide a valuable overview of various Latin American countries. They use both primary and secondary sources by eyewitnesses and important scholars respectively to illuminate key periods of each country’s history. They also include a trove of images, maps, and fine art. Each volume focuses on a single country. Currently, Duke has published readers about the Dominican Republic, Chile, Paraguay, Guatemala, Ecuador, Perú, Costa Rica, Cuba, México, Argentina, and Brazil

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    I wouldn't recommend this as a first time tourist book for Peru. This is more for someone with a background in both historical and cultural aspects of Peru. It is a good book but I would read a basic Peru book if I had to do this over again. So then I could move into this one. Unfortunately there's very little as far as Peruvians pre-Inca, as there is more information on the Incas available in general. It has a good mix of different kind of stories and articles. I wouldn't recommend this as a first time tourist book for Peru. This is more for someone with a background in both historical and cultural aspects of Peru. It is a good book but I would read a basic Peru book if I had to do this over again. So then I could move into this one. Unfortunately there's very little as far as Peruvians pre-Inca, as there is more information on the Incas available in general. It has a good mix of different kind of stories and articles.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I skipped around in this, and what I liked best was the variety of entries- poems, tales from ficiton authors and accounts fromt he likes of Hiram Bingham (who "discovered" Machi Picchu). It's good way to get a taste of the diversity of Peru. I skipped around in this, and what I liked best was the variety of entries- poems, tales from ficiton authors and accounts fromt he likes of Hiram Bingham (who "discovered" Machi Picchu). It's good way to get a taste of the diversity of Peru.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This is a good primer for Peru's history, outlining political and cultural development through a thoughtful collection of essays, poems, and anecdotes. I read it before and during my second trip to Peru, and found it to be a worthwhile (yet heavy) travel companion. This is a good primer for Peru's history, outlining political and cultural development through a thoughtful collection of essays, poems, and anecdotes. I read it before and during my second trip to Peru, and found it to be a worthwhile (yet heavy) travel companion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Call

    An amazing collection of history and mythology combined with contemporary social criticism and poetry that allows any reader to fully engage in the Peruvian experience. I read this book while I was in Peru and it enlightened my travel and social experience there immensely.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Especially liked the commentary in between the selections... Was difficult to get through some of the older writings, but worth it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    Great overview of Peru through primary texts and Peruvian literature. Context is given before each chapter.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I just read selected portions of this book to prepare for my trip to Peru.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Excellent collection of articles covering a wide range of Peru's history, culture and politics, well recommended to all headed for the country with the intention of living and working there! Excellent collection of articles covering a wide range of Peru's history, culture and politics, well recommended to all headed for the country with the intention of living and working there!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marlene

    An amazing collection of writings. I haven't read them all but I feel like I have learned so much from what I have read. An amazing collection of writings. I haven't read them all but I feel like I have learned so much from what I have read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Ainsworth

    Loved it. Very informative read on Peru.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julian Haigh

    A little sampling of Peruvian history and culture. Nothing too exhaustive with many different little bits to provide a 'feel' for what is Peru. A little sampling of Peruvian history and culture. Nothing too exhaustive with many different little bits to provide a 'feel' for what is Peru.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    I learned quite a bit from this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It took me 10 months to finish but is super comprehensive.. must read for people looking to learn about all facets of Peruvian culture history and life...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    A kaleidoscopic glimpse of Peru, past and present.

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