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Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  232 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Latin America has often been condemned to failure. Neither poor enough to evoke Africa’s moral crusade, nor as explosively booming as India and China, it has largely been overlooked by the West. Yet this vast continent, home to half a billion people, the world’s largest reserves of arable land, and 8.5 percent of global oil, is busily transforming its political and economi ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 3rd 2008 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  232 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Kevin P.
Aug 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Just read this book, sorta had to. Reid writes well and clear and has a real balanced 3/4 of a book. A great history in the first few chapters, showing how the right and left have both betrayed democracy. However, he staunchly supports the Washington Consensus, arguing that everything that is good is due to the WC, anything bad had nothing to do with it. Here he loses the balance struck in the early chapters. You have to be looking through different glasses if you think that what Lula, Bacelet, ...more
Jul 27, 2011 added it
I'll submit the review I left on amazon. The original review can be found here:

Written by one of the leading editors of Economist magazine, Michael Reid's Forgotten Continent exalts the relative triumph of the free market and democracy in Latin American. His thesis follows that these successes (Brazil, Colombia, Chile etc.) however are in danger from far left populism in the region: Chavez's Venezuela and Morales' Bolivia. Further, Reid argues that contrar
Vicky Hunt
A Sweeping View of the Latin American World

Those who serve revolution plow the sea.”
–Simon Bolivar, 1830

Revolutions and coups, political corruption, influential leaders and politicians, natural resources, boom cities, campesinos, urban settlements, financial markets, infrastructure… everything is here from the Southern cone of South America to Mexico. Michael Reid has not only done an excellent job of covering the Latin American world, but he has revised and expanded the work in 2017. I read th
Introduction to Latin America, everything you should have learned in school, but didn't because we don't think that Latin America is as important as the rest of the world. Reid takes the average US Citizen thru the political and economical history of Latin America with an emphasis on the last 5 decades.

Why I picked up this book: It's on the US Army recommended reading list and I thought that I have a better grasp of Latin America than the average American thanks to 4 years of Spanish in school.

Adriaan Jansen
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
''The democratic will is vulgar; its laws, imperfect. I admit all this. But if it is true that soon there will be no middle way between the empire of democracy and the yoke of one man, ought we not try rather for the former than submit voluntarily for the latter?'' (Alexis de Tocqueville).

Forgotten Continent was first published in 2007. It is strange to see that now, 11 years later, many issues that seemed to haunt Latin America have now also manifested themselves in the United States and Europe
Joe Ruvido
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very heavy on the details but I have a better base of knowledge regarding some of the political, economic and social movements in Central and South America. I thought at times the author (an Economist correspondent with an obvious right lean) was quick to forgive the United States and the western world for harmful interventions and colonial legacy in Latin America. He is quick to blame economic woes on refusal to embrace free-market ideology without giving equal weight to the negative effects of ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
This is a fantastic book that contains a lot of the history of Latin America and the politics. It's fantastically informative and points out a lot of the issues that Latin America has. The author discusses a lot of the issues between the United States and Latin America and why they have been so troublesome.
Roy Draa
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Balanced appraisal of Latin America, it’s history, relationship with the US/European powers, conservative dictatorships and socialist populist uprisings. It would interesting to hear the author’s thoughts on the recent Brazilian election and the implosion of Venezuela today.
Nicki Fruth
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gotta love Michael Reid.
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
A review at Amazon by Agustin Guerrero expresses best for me a great reason for reading the book. He claims to be (and I've no reason to doubt it) a Latin American, and laments that the best books about his homeland are written by outsiders. I had an Austrian cousin who had much the same thing to say when I asked him one time about the best of histories written about Austria.

I was struck by Bolivar's self-penned epitaph, written in a letter to the new president of Ecuador as he (Bolivar) approac
Apr 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a very good book by a journalist for The Economist who has been covering the continent for years. One of the reasons I bought it was that I am guilty of exactly what the author says. I follow all manner of world affairs but have mostly forgotten about Latin America. On one hand it does not seem to have the abject, soul-crushing poverty that we read about in Africa all the time, and on the other it does not have the dynamic “Tiger” economies of East Asia. This book explains the history of ...more
Fernando  Hoces de la Guardia
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The book was a novel attempt to provide an overarching context to modern Latin America. For that alone, given the scarcity of similar efforts, it's a highly valuable contribution.
On the down side, I happen to know a fair amount of Chilean history and contemporary economics and I found the authors characterization of Chile as the exemplary case quite inaccurate. Chile has the worst income distribution of the region (Brazil is similar but its ineq is more a north-south problem) and that inequalit
Ian McHugh
Mar 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
A great insight into Latin American politics and economic development - an absolute "must read" for anyone who is thinking of living, working, or doing business in this part of the world.

I didn't agree with all of Reid's analysis of the economic turmoil that has occasionally engulfed the "Forgotten Continent" but overall he paints an optimistic picture of Latin American growth in the 21st Century and I agree with him on that.

N.B. Reid's analysis of Latin America's upward trajectory of growth, co
Jul 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Reid has done a thorough and detailed job researching his historical survey of Central and South America. While clearly rooted in the historical record, there is a very heavy emphasis on economic development. (Perhaps this should not be a shock considering Reid's current employer is The Economist.) At times, the material was a bit dense and difficult to wade through. There is also a tendency for Reid to be a champion for democratic and economic reform. However, if you are seriously interested in ...more
Kyle Worlitz
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reid does a very good job providing a concise summary of Latin America's internal politics since the Wars of Independence. As a former reporter for the Economist, he does tend to lean a little transparently towards the Washington Consensus. The leaning is almost hidden in the midst of so much centrist reporting, but it is detectable. There are several instances where military coups are glossed over, and barring of certain candidates from election justified. Despite the somewhat disturbing undert ...more
Daniel Simmons
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Seven years after its publication, this book feels a bit dated and I would love to see new addenda from this author about recent developments in Brazil, the effect of the global financial crisis on Latin America generally, and the aftermath of Chavez's death in Venezuela. But it would be churlish of course to complain about what is not here. What IS here is a somewhat dry but very informative overview of political and economic trends in Central and South America, as well as a reasoned defense of ...more
Halldór Thorgeirsson
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I was looking for an introduction to economy, history and politics of Latin America and this book is a good place to start. Written by an Economist reporter, this book is well researched and nicely structured. The analysis of the impact the Washington Consensus has had in the region is particularly interesting. The rise of populism is also well covered. The author does not hide his doubts about the value of the Bolivarian alternative for the regions development. He also analyses the impact the U ...more
Jun 17, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is written by the editor of The Economist's Latin America section and it shows. His prose is well-researched and covers a variety of different issues facing Latin America but isn't so mired in economic terms or complicated facts that it's hard to follow. I learned a lot from this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in this part of the world, which is so close to my heart.
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
I would actually rate this a 2.5 if i could. If I was rating this in terms of the quantity of information present I would give it a 5, but it is so overwhelming and jumps so often from topic to topic it is far too overwhelming to be confined to a single book. I felt like I was cramming for an exam seeing so many economic statistics and charts (literally pie graphs and charts).
Nov 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Insightful and balanced book. First half is excellent, second half drags for a couple chapters, before a couple great chapters, while the last chapter feels like odd ends just stuffed together.

It reads mostly like an economist article. Although written in 2007, holds up quite well and the analysis and arguments will likely remain relevant for some time.
Tim Tolka
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
In his effort to rescue sensible economic policy, Reid gives a bit too much berth to the U.S. in the discussion of economic and political history in Latin America. His writing does not lack color and humor, but he treats his ideological opponents in a dismissive manner and risks distorting history in his attempt to set the record straight.
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
A survey of South American countries, the impacts of post-colonialism, populism, political, economic and social development. Dense, interesting reading. Maybe not a good "starter" on the topic, but interesting enough to make me want to know more.
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great cross-section of information for the major players in Latin America. After reading it, I feel like I have a better awareness and understanding of the key issues facing our neighbors to the south.
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a counterbalance to OVERTHROW
(From Hawaii to Iraq) by Stephen Kinzer, which
rings more true to me (about the harm the
U.S. has done and is doing). But this author,
Reid, supplies a lot of helpful background
information, skewed to the right more than
to the left.
Apr 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
An excellent overview of South America from a politcal and economical standpoint. Little bit of a heavy read.
Oct 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very good book. I have it on my kindle but would like the hard cover for reference in the future.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Nice summary of the political and economic history and status of latin american countries. A bit too deep a dive for me to find it really interesting, though.
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
dramatic title for a dramatic subject. Reid manages to cover a lot of good material about trends in latin american political and economic history without getting too bogged down with the details.
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good reading! For those who love Latin America and don't think that Galeano's exploitation theory can explain it all. Because Mexico is not closer to los gringos than Canada is.
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
good book, thought it mostly went over my head. i will definitely keep it on hand to read in the future.
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Michael Reid is a journalist, writer and commentator on Latin American and Iberian affairs. He has been a staff journalist with The Economist since 1994. His books include "Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul" (2007) and "Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power" (2014).