The “Best First” Book Prize Committee for the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies has voted unanimously to award this year’s prize, which considered first monographs published between 2019 and 2021, to S. Elizabeth Penry’s The People Are King: The Making of an Indigenous Andean Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). Drawing on an impressive array of documentation from a long list of archives on both sides of the Atlantic, The People Are King advances a convincing and timely revisionary examination of the processes by which Andean peoples within the viceroyalty of Peru strategically submitted to, collaborated with, and resisted Spanish imperial institutions from the sixteenth-century conquests through the age of revolutions and independence into the modern day. Via an exploration of the long-term development of five Andean highland towns and the ways in which their local populaces forged the social institution of the común to identify and assert their common interests and attain greater agency, Penry brilliantly demonstrates how indigenous peoples appropriated, refashioned, and repurposed Christian and Spanish ideas of natural rights and sovereignty, blending them with pre-conquest Andean principles of community obligation, in order to navigate the legal landscape and manipulate power structures within the Spanish-ruled administrative framework. Her expertly crafted book exhibits a rare level of erudition and historical craftsmanship for a first monograph and promises to serve as both an essential reference work for those working in the field and an aspirational exemplar for all historians.
Congratulations, Dr. Penry!