History's Peru:
The Poetics of Colonial and Postcolonial Historiography

Mark Thurner


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More than the story of a South American country, History's Peru examines how the entity called "Peru" gradually came into being, and how the narratives that defined it evolved over time.

Mark Thurner here offers a brilliant account of Peruvian historiography, one that makes a pioneering contribution not only to Latin American studies but also to the history of historical thought at large. He traces the contributions of key historians of Peru, from the colonial period through the present, and teases out the theoretical underpinnings of their approaches. He demonstrates how Peruvian historical thought critiques both European history and Anglophone postcolonial theory. And his deeply informed readings of Peru's most influential historians--from Inca Garcilaso de la Vega to Jorge Basadre--are among the most subtle and powerful available in English.

In this tour de force, Thurner examines the development of Peruvian historical thought from its misty colonial origins in the sixteenth century up to the present day. He demonstrates that the concept of "Peru" is both a strange and enlightening invention of the modern colonial imagination--an invention that lives on today as a postcolonial wager on a democratic political future that can only be imagined in its own historicist terms, not those of European or Western history.

A fascinating counter example to those who mistakenly believe history to be an exact and objective science, History's Peru is an intellectual adventure of wide scope and great originality.

Mark Thurner is associate professor of history and anthropology at the University of Florida.

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"A deeply original exploration of how Peruvians have challenged spatial, historical, and ontological categories fashioned in Europe over three centuries."
--HAHR

“This important book forces the reader to rethink, from a modern position, the legacy of the construction, or the invention, of what today is known as Peru, the great Spanish colonial viceroyalty.”
--Colonial Latin American Historical Review

A series of reflections on how the history of a place now called Peru came into being, and how the name itself brought it to life.
--Bulletin of Spanish Studies

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