Booth, John A., Christine J. Wade, and Thomas W. Walker. Understanding Central America (Sixth Edition). Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2015.
In 1990, as a graduate student at Ohio University, I was introduced to the first edition of Understanding Central America by coauthor Thomas W. Walker. New to Latin American Studies, I was grateful for Understanding Central America's survey of the five Latin American isthmian countries. The book's historical, political, and economic overview of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica was a useful introduction. The utility of Understanding Central America as an introductory text continues in the recently released sixth edition coauthored by John A. Booth, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of North Texas; Christine J. Wade, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Washington College; and Thomas W. Walker, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Ohio University.
This latest edition retains its orientation toward the newcomer to Central American studies, combining updated country-specific and thematic chapters into a integrated narrative on the development of Central America. The dependency, regime-change, and world-system theories the authors use to explain Central America's development represent, collectively, a view of third-world development in opposition to the neoliberal capitalist model that has dominated development in the western world over the past century. Understanding that these theories reside on the left-hand side of the ideological spectrum, they are useful for studying the developing world generally and Latin America in particular.
Understanding Central America is effectively organized for an introductory study of the topic. The first three chapters frame the authors' arguments for explaining the poverty, inequality, and political turmoil that has existed in Central America since the period of Spanish conquest and colonization. Chapters 1 and 2 provide geopolitical and global economic context, while Chapter 3 lays the historical groundwork for the subsequent country-specific chapters. Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, respectively, receive individual treatment in chapters 4 through 8. The authors apply their analytical framework to each country's particular historical, political, and economic context. Each country is given thorough and thoughtful treatment. It is clear, however, that the...