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

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,132 Ratings  ·  95 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, 2nd Edition, 372 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2000)
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Linda Abhors the New GR Design
Obligatory terse review, as things are still hectic around here.
I waffled and wavered all over this. First, inclined for a four, then a two, so going for a three. Why? It's concise, clear, non-pretentious prose, not without its bias but not heavily so. It offers the usual summary of political and historical events in Latin America (for Brazil is discussed almost as much as the Hispanophone countries), with a few moments where the author clears up a few things that either are misconceptions or wh
Apr 05, 2009 Amri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mark Masters
Jun 22, 2011 Mark Masters rated it liked it
Shelves: world-history
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
Aug 17, 2010 Malonie rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 28, 2007 Sara rated it it was ok
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
Clean and concise, this enthusiastic history is a handy summary of Latin America's colorful and tumultuous journey over the past half millennium. Of course, as the author hints at in the introduction, the task at hand is an impossible one--five hundred years of a continent's history can hardly be fitted into such a small space--and the text does often feel a bit too glossy. But this is a worthy and useful venture none-the-less, providing a great jumping off point for the uninitiated.
Jun 09, 2015 Zahraa rated it it was ok
Haven't really finished all of it since we were reading excerpts for a class.
I don't think it is possible to read and understand it with no prior knowledge of the topic or no one to explain/discuss the events.
Very helpful source for papers though.
Andrew Coyle
Oct 14, 2016 Andrew Coyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this one as supplemental reading for a class in college. Chasteen has provided what the subtitle says: it is concise. If you are looking for a very detailed description of particular events or time periods, look elsewhere. It is meant to be read as a sort of introduction to Latin America, meant to peak the interest of the reader. Chasteen does have his biases, (the U.S. is criticized repeatedly) but this does not get in the way of the readability. Overall, it is a decent introduction to L ...more
Aug 08, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Karl Arney
Jul 09, 2016 Karl Arney rated it liked it
This is pretty much what it claims to be, which is a bit of a a virtue and a detriment. The very concept of the book is ambitious - trying to tie together the shared histories of everything from Mexico to Argentina by way of common themes. It's not a huge book, and so "concise" is truly the word. That's great for someone just dipping their toes into the region's past, and provides lots of possible jumping-off points and subjects to look into further. It does a solid job, too, in so much as I can ...more
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
May 12, 2014 Bradley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Dec 23, 2013 Allison rated it it was ok
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
Nov 03, 2014 Troy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As many prior reviews have stated it is a concise history. I had this as the basic text in a course in Latin American history. There were quite a few supplementary texts that provided more details on important eras or countries to round out the class.

If you are looking for an introductory text to get a brief view of Latin American history this is a good place to start. If you are beyond the basic intro level, you won't want this book. I think for what it is the book is good, thus the 3 star rat
Sabrina Spiher
Sep 21, 2007 Sabrina Spiher rated it liked it  ·  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
Hillary Corwin
Aug 15, 2012 Hillary Corwin rated it really liked it
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
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,
Jessica Harmon
Jun 16, 2015 Jessica Harmon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this book in preparation for my trip to Peru. I had taken course in undergrad that covered most of this material, but this book was a good refresher. Things were presented mostly logically, and the writing was clear. The political bent of this book is kinda anti-US, which makes sense, we have committed many atrocities. The book was mostly balanced though. I learned some new things. I remembered some things I once knew. I have a better understanding of the arc of Latin American history, an ...more
Dec 18, 2009 Max rated it really liked it
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
Mason Stevens
Apr 12, 2016 Mason Stevens rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-for-school
As a layman to Latin American history, I find this book to be incredibly helpful. The book provides insights into all the major ideas through colonization to the present. The book is well written, something that seems to be lacking in most history books I've read. The author also talks about the themes of history as it applies to today and possible trends Latin American countries may take in the future, which I agree with. My only criticism is that the book has a left-leaning bias, although the ...more
Mason Stevens
Apr 29, 2016 Mason Stevens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-school
Rating: 9/10
Review: As a layman to Latin American history, I find this book to be incredibly helpful. The book provides insights into all the major ideas through colonization to the present. The book is well written, something that seems to be lacking in most history books I've read. The author also talks about the themes of history as it applies to today and possible trends Latin American countries may take in the future, which I agree with. My only criticism is that the book has a left-leaning
Aaron Hubbard
Aug 24, 2010 Aaron Hubbard rated it really liked it
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.
David Calderon
Jul 23, 2012 David Calderon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 20, 2012 Salena rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Apr 19, 2009 Becca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Alexandra Sundarsingh
Chasteen is a good writer, but his attempts to be conversational lead to him being even more reductive than is already necessary in a 'concise history'. A good overview of the region, with useful break in the writing to explore 'countercurrents' against the prevailing regional norms in each chapter. An overall useful intro textbook, but needs to be supplemented with other reading to balance the (very American) perspectives introduced.
Audrey Sharp
Jun 01, 2012 Audrey Sharp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 10, 2014 Jan rated it liked it
Pitched at a slightly different tone than I was expecting: it's meant for American college students so hadn't thought there would be pauses throughout to explain what terms like 'cultural hegemony' mean. Also a bit light touch in terms of detail, no real referencing to sources...but a decent-ish starting point otherwise.
Allen Setzer
Jun 18, 2012 Allen Setzer rated it really liked it

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.
Jun 26, 2012 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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