In 1969, Juan Velasco Alvarado’s military government began an ambitious land reform program in Peru, transferring holdings from large estates to peasant cooperatives. Fifty years later this reform remains controversial: critics claim it unjustly expropriated land and ruined the Peruvian economy, while supporters emphasize its success in addressing rural inequality and exploitation.
Moving beyond agricultural policy to offer a fresh perspective on the agrarian reform, Land without Masters shows how ideological assumptions and state interventions surrounding the reform transformed Peru’s political culture and social fabric. Drawing on fieldwork in three different regions, Anna Cant shows how the government adapted its discourse and interventions to the local context while using the reform as a platform for nation-building. This comparative approach reveals how local actors shaped the regional impact of the agrarian reform and highlights the new forms of agency that emerged, including that of marginalized peasants who helped forge a new social, cultural, and political landscape.
Making novel use of both visual and cultural sources, this book is a fascinating look at how the agrarian reform process permanently altered the relationship between rural citizens and the national government—and how it continues to resonate in Peruvian politics today.
Introduction Chapter 1. The History of the Land Question in Peru Chapter 2. SINAMOS: Promoting the Revolution in the Regions Chapter 3. Education for Social Change: The Making of the Campesino Citizen Chapter 4. The Agrarian Reform in Public Discourse Chapter 5. The Agrarian Reform in Historical Memory Conclusion
Notes Selected Bibliography Index
Anna Cant is an assistant professor of Latin American history at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Land without Masters is an outstanding history of a confounding regime—a left-leaning military dictatorship that carried out the most ambitious agrarian reform in Latin America, save for Cuba...Correctly, in this reviewer's opinion, Cant argues that the military government significantly extended citizenship rights to Peru’s peasants and advanced political participation in the country...Highly recommended.
An original, thoroughly researched, and clear book on the 1969 Peruvian agrarian reform and the military government of Juan Velasco Alvarado…Cant convincingly argues that the agrarian reform marked a key moment of transformation not only due to its redistribution of land but also because of the political efforts enlisted and marshaled by the military government to achieve this aim...Cant’s book is a welcome addition to the history of modern Peru.
Land without Masters vividly reconstructs the tensions, conflicts, and enduring memories around the agrarian reform as an unfulfilled and yet truly transformative historical episode in the history of Peru and Latin America...Cant’s achievements are vast and profound...Land without Masters is more than a welcome contribution to the field. Cant offers an in-depth analysis, compellingly theoretical and captivatingly narrative, of Peru’s most important sociopolitical, economic, and cultural turning point. A new agrarian history of Peru and Latin America begins here.
~Hispanic American Historical Review
This book is an innovative and welcome study, as well as a timely one, of the 1969 agrarian reform that has much to teach us about the reform itself and its continuing importance to Peruvian politics and society.
Land without Masters makes a welcome addition to a scantly populated field, and offers an original take on a movement that, for complex reasons explored in its final chapter, is discussed infrequently in Peru and has largely been overlooked by historians...the conclusions which are reached in this notable work are robust, enlightening and convincing...The book is clearly written, easy to navigate, and beautifully illustrated by the photographs, prints and drawings that Cant has unearthed in the disparate collections that are scattered across the country. It is, therefore, suitable both for broad audiences and specialists.
~Journal of Latin American Studies
A very welcome addition to the growing body of literature that is now challenging the neoclassical/political science orthodoxy that ‘Latin America’s so-called transitions to democracy [followed] the rise of human rights agenda and a global break with the statist policies of the 1960s and 1970s'...[an] excellent book.
~Bulletin of Latin American Research
Innovative and ambitious...Land Without Masters provides an urgently needed and relevant history of agrarian politics and military government during the Velasco era. While illuminating the often-hidden logistics of large-scale land reform, Cant goes beyond policy to ultimately reveal how state practice and ideology interact to shape the idea of the nation itself. Clear and profound, Land Without Masters is an encouraging example of historiography that does not elide the hidden complexity of state-led development, but meets it head-on.
~LSE Review of Books