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

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  645 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Drawing on the most current scholarship, this concise text presents a direct, compelling narrative that spans six centuries and twenty countries. Carefully revised in light of recent Latin American history, the Second Edition introduces new maps, helpful chapter timelines, and a new Student Web site.
Paperback, Second Edition, 372 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2000)
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Sara
Nov 28, 2007 Sara rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: middle schoolers and no one else
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...more
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...more
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.
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.
Bradley
This book was used for my Introduction to Latin America class. We discussed the first 6 chapters then we switched books because my professor wanted a better book.

This book does what it's supposed to do. It's a concise history of Latin America. I really enjoyed the chapters that dealt with the conquest and colonization of the region. It's refreshing to have more life experience and be able to look at events from another point of view. Once the book got past those events it began to lose my inter...more
Stefania
Firstly, I read the second edition which was filled with typos and errors which I find quiet annoying considering the amount I payed for the book.

All that aside, the book is a VERY BRIEF account of Latin American history.In no way does it do justice as a concrete history of the region but I'd say it tries to get the basic feel of the region during the times but it's hard to do when dealing with so many countries. It skips over important event with a simple mention, lack of mentioning that not a...more
Scott
I've assigned this book for my first semester teaching Latin American History on my own. When I team-taught the subject two years ago, we used the second edition, and I liked it then.

Chasteen's narrative is very readable and is a great introduction to the history of Latin America. In 10 chapters, he arranges the history of Latin America's large number of societies into chronological themes like colonial society, independence, post-independence struggles, and the liberal age of Progress (Chapters...more
Allison
This is a good book for anyone looking for a barebones history of the last five centuries in Latin America. However, I must have had the second version as well as it was riddled with typographical and grammatical errors. As for the substance, I found it lacking. Many of the analogies he drew were specious at best. I especially found the correlations between FDR and Getulio Vargas insulting. Okay, they both came from wealthy families and were physically unimposing, but their policies were nothing...more
Sabrina Spiher
Sep 21, 2007 Sabrina Spiher rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Latin American history novices
"I'm a big fan of one-volume histories, as is Roger, who lent me this book. I like having a broad, shallow knowledge of everything in the world, and the one-volume history is a good way to go about obtaining this.

To the credit of John Charles Chasteen, Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America, a survey of Latin American history, didn't satisfy my curiosity about the subject, but rather has driven me to further curiosity about the historical events and actors he cites only brief...more
Hillary Corwin
This is a VERY brief survey Latin American history. Chasteen attempted to accomplish the impossible task of laying out the history of the majority of the Americas from Spanish conquest to neoliberalism in 330 pages, and he has done the subject some justice. The book calls itself "A Concise History of Latin America", and it is exactly that. My only major criticism is that it is, perhaps, too concise.

Good starting point for those who want to delve more deeply into certain subjects through other me...more
Lauren
As someone who never had exposure to Latin American history in high school or undergrad (sigh...both a product of American schools and my own choices), this was a great book to start getting myself up to speed. Chasteen does an excellent job of summarizing and explaining the main historical themes across the Latin American area without being reductionist. He also gave one of the best explanations of cultural hegemony I've ever read.

This book is definitely written for an undergraduate audience,...more
Max
4.5 I thought this was an excellent overview of Latin American history. Written to be a clear, concise, and general history of Latin America, it accomplishes all of these goals. It is a bit simplistic, of course, as a 300 page history of a large and diverse region is bound to be, but the author did a good job of avoiding oversimplicity where possible. I also appreciated his attempts to show the viewpoints of historically under-represented voices, particularly those of the indigenos and women. Th...more
Salena
For an introductory text concerning such a huge region and time period, it did a remarkable job of pointing out that nothing happened everywhere, and showing just enough information about what was going on in places that didn't follow the pattern and with everyday people and women that it firmly situated itself as an introductory text, which made me want to learn more. Some introductory surveys have a way of making it seem like history was simple, and this text most assuredly did not.
Becca
This is like taking a whirlwind tour of Latin America--without really visiting any countries other than Mexico, Brazil, or Argentina for more than a couple of seconds. However, the info on Argentina's twentieth century history jives nicely with what I already knew from the Andrew Lloyd Weber School of History and Social Gobbledygook. This is a good book for a quick primer on Latin America, but look elsewhere if you want a more nuanced, detailed, or focused analysis.
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.
Aaron Hubbard
This book is exactly what it says it is, a concise history. I liked the fact that I got a little bit of information about several different topics. It gave me a foundation to do future research. The book read quickly and focused on Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. It also highlighted major events in the other South American countries.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Latin America.
Susan Mcnerney
Most engaging history book I've read in years. Great prep for a trip to South America.
Allen Setzer


Like the title says, it's a concise survey of Latin America. While I enjoyed it I felt it was too concise. I'm not not sure if the author intended it to be a textbook but as a whole it's excellent for anyone not acquainted with Latin American history. Since I know more of its history, I found it wanting in some places but enlightening in other aspects as it compares other countries.
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.
Nina
This book was a good general overview. It was often not specific enough to give a true grasp of material, but I don't think that was it's intended purpose. Good for a class-room textbook, or anyone wanting a general view of Latin American culture and history, but not so great for a student who needs some specific analysis for a given topic.
Jerry Peace
Christianity comes off pretty well here. But not us of the U.S.A. If you still believe we are always the good guys, stop after chapter 4. And if you still worship President Reagan, stop after chapter 8. Our hubris, arrogance and fear is splashed in blood all over twentieth century Latin America. The best concise history I've ever read.
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.
Chris
Not sure how one would go about writing the entire history of Latin America more effectively in such a concise format. Then again, what do I know: this book represents the entire sum of my reading on Latin America. It seems like a fine starting point and it did inspire me to learn more. Everyone tells me to read "Empire's Workshop."
Ahmed A
Aug 12, 2012 Ahmed A rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If interested in learning about cultures,men/women social rules,the fight for freedom & independence
Shelves: history-politics
Very interesting book about the history of Latin America; a history of slavery, colonies, encounters, revolutions and independence.
A history of cultures, the life and social rules; of men and women.
Easy to understand, very concise, effective and very interesting. A story that's worth reading, it is like real life "novel".
Dennis Nunez
This book provides you with a birds eye view of Latin American history. It never gets deep into the details. However, I think its a good book for figuring out what you don't know. For example, I realized how little I knew about the history of Brazil and its emperors. I now know what I don't know thanks to this book.
Alesia
I agree with the other reviews I see that it's hard to do justice to so much history over such a large geographical region but for me it was helpful overview of Latin American history of which I didn't know very much. So depressing how what a negative effect the U.S. has had on the region. Will we ever learn?
Mary
Although there is a lot of history to cover, this nails out some details of Latin American history in a relatively vague manner. I thought Chasteen was vague and unclear about some aspects of history, however its a nice "tip of the iceberg" if your looking to take a plunge into a history of an entire continent.
Angie Ungaro
This book was great for an overview of the history of Latin America. It gave me enough information without being totally overwhelming. The author also takes great care to examine the important role(s) of women in Latin American History. It made me want to learn more. Viva la raza!
Alexander J
A serious student might want to augment Chasteen's account with others to fill in certain details, but if you simply want to develop a better understanding of the rest of America, this book gives a great, accessible overview of the themes and arcs of Latin American history.
Roman Rampinini
Look no further for a general and brief history of Latin America. The book covers from the 1500 to 2001. Enjoy!
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