History of the Inca Realm

María Rostworowski de Diez Canseco

translated from the Spanish by Harry B. Iceland
Cambridge University Press 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003 http://dannyreviews.com/
Rostworowski's approach in History of the Inca Realm is predominantly ethnohistorical, drawing on early colonial chronicles and other records; archaeological evidence is used, but in a supporting role. So particular attention is paid to Andean ways of remembering events and to misinterpretations resulting from European attempts to fit Inca concepts into familiar frameworks.

There are no hard dates till the end, but part one is roughly chronological. Rostworowski starts with the deep archaeological record, early Cusco, the myth of the Ayar siblings, and the war against the Chancas that laid the foundation for Inca success. She describes the system of reciprocity which underpinned early expansion, the construction by the state of roads, buildings, bridges and storehouses, and the Inca army; and she presents some examples of different local patterns in the Inca conquest. An analysis of Inca succession —

"the right to rule was based on the matrilineal exogamy of the panaca, which gave preference to the son of the sister. In order for the succession to pass from father to son, an important first measure was co-rule".
— forms essential background for understanding the conflict between Huascar and Atahualpa, which helped lay the ground for Pizzaro's conquest (and on which the chroniclers take partisan positions depending on their sources).

In part two Rostworowski turns to "organizational aspects" of the Inca realm. She describes the different groups among the elite, traders, and commoners, and the nature of dual rulership and the power of the Inca.

"The Inca state did not create feelings of solidarity among the macroethnic groups, nor did it integrate the population of the Inca realm, owing to the persistence of local and regionalist loyalties."
Labour, camelid herds and land were the primary sources of Inca wealth. Rostworowski also looks at broader economic structures, particularly trading networks and irrigation systems in the coastal region.

History of the Inca Realm is not overly technical, but does in places assume a basic familiarity with the region's history. Another drawback for the newcomer to the Incas is that the maps are poor, leaving one unsure where major ethnic groups and events were located. On the plus side, there's a small but useful selection of black and white halftones, and Rostworowski's style is straightforward and easy to read.

December 2003

External links:
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Related reviews:
- books about South America + South American history
- more Spanish literature
- more medieval history
- books published by Cambridge University Press
%T History of the Inca Realm
%A Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, María
%M Spanish
%F Iceland, Harry B.
%I Cambridge University Press
%D 1999
%O paperback, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0521637597
%P x,259pp