The book, The Contemporary History of Latin America, was first published in Spanish by Tulio Halperin Donghi in 1993 and it was later translated into English by John Charles Chasteen. The author (Tulio Halperin Donghi) is one of the most respected scholars and Argentine historian. He was born in Buenos Aires on the October 27, 1926 and received his doctorate and juris doctor from the reputable University of Buenos Aires in 1955. He now teaches at the University of California and University of Buenos Aires. Besides “The Contemporary History of Latin America, he has made a number of publications such as “Historia de America Latina” (1970), “Revolucion y Guerra” (1972), and “Son Memorias” (2008) -all in Spanish.

Summary of the Book

The Contemporary History of Latin America gives a comprehensive history of the Latin America right from the beginning of the 19th Century up to last quarter of the 20th Century. An elaborate account of the major political, economic, and social events and matters of historical significance are included in the book. The author places a lot of emphasis on the economic and political developments within the region with few aspects of macroeconomics and formal politics. The cross cutting political and economic themes are transversally given by region then country by country across the continent of the South America.

The first chapter of the book focuses on the colonial heritage of the Latin America. It offers an elaborate account of the colonial powers in the Southern American countries in respect to their imperialistic economic and political interests. Spain and European colonial powers conquered the Latin American for economic purposes. The classical conquest of the Latin America was motivated by their colonialists’ desire to access fertile agricultural and settlement lands, minerals, forests and cheap labor. Most apparently, the book shows that it is these Spanish and the Northern European economic and political impacts that influenced political, social and economic landscape of the Latin America over a period of time.

The second part of the book, “Crisis of Independence in the 19th Century”, provides a complete coverage of the dire economic and political consequences that Latin America suffered after their independence from the colonial powers between 1810 and 1825.  The region struggled to maintain its political and economic systems after the European colonial powers. The economy of the Latin American was crippled for decades because supportive economic activities came to a sudden halt. Civil struggles for leadership, bad governance, poor living conditions of the locals, lack of market for agricultural productions, lack of infrastructures outside the colonial settlements and corruption were the problems that faced the Latin America during the early national period (1850-1880).

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The fourth and fifth chapters of the book cover the emergence and the aftermath effects of the Neocolonial Order by the European powers. Under the Neocolonial Order, the Latin succumbed to the economic rule of the Northern Europe whereby most of the good from the European industries were sold in the Southern American countries. Together with the economic exploitation of the Northern America, the Latin American remained underdeveloped to date.

The European and Northern America’s direct involvements in the Latin America’s economic and political affairs fell out of place after the World War I and World War II respectively. The postwar period marked Latin America’s liberation from the foreign manipulations. In the decade of decision (1960- present), various countries within the continent are in full control of making economic and political decisions that affect their sovereign states

Book Review

The particular book, The Contemporary History of Latin America, has proven very useful n revealing a comprehensive historical account of the Latin American. Tulio Halperin Donghi did a wonderful work in exposing the much needed historical information about the colonial activities, their political and economic impacts, and influence on the future developments across the expansive regions of Latin America. It is now made apparent how Spain, European colonial authorities, and the Northern America exerted their economic and political control over the region through an articulate use of entertaining narrative. Much of the historical information presented in this book has offered me a new insight into the future developments of the Latin America countries.

The Historical information, ideas, and political or economic concepts presented in the book are relevant and accurate because the author has incorporated statistical figures from the publication drawn from international agencies such as the United Nations gallery. Secondly, all the claims presented in the books are fully backed up by other independent sources. As one reads through the book, there is no conflicting information on the historical facts as far as Latin America is concerned. The book has truly added to my knowledge of the world history more than any other.


In conclusion, The Contemporary History of Latin America is one of the greatest resourceful books I have ever read during my history course. It is peculiar in its own right. It is highly organized into systematic sections and cascading chapters for the purposes of easy reading and subsequent understanding. It is written in a simple language that everyone can understand without any struggle. The technical political or economic terms used are explained throughout its texts in the foot notes, end notes, or appendix. It is on this basis that I recommend this book for general readership. It is a book truly worth reading.

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