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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

as IBM class rolls, Lanning has constructed a brief biography of perhaps
the most nimble and engaging con artist in post-Conquest New Spain.
"Doctor" de la Torre gained fame as physician to Cortes's aging conquista-
dors. In 1545 he was convicted of practicing medicine with a forged license
and forever banished from the colony. Small matter that he had no degree
in medicine from the University of Padua, as he claimed he did, or from
any other institution. Six years later he was back in New Spain where he
was tried by the Inquisition and found guilty of bigamy, blasphemy, sor-
cery, and "rank theological aberrations" (p. 92). The end of Doctor de la
Torre? Hardly. Within three years the heretical and bigamous doctor was
involved in still another celebrated case. The great Spanish Renaissance
poet Gutierre de Cetina was cut down under the window of de la Torre's
house by a jealous young assailant who had simultaneously arrived to enjoy
the favors of the good doctor's young wife. Despite convictions in civil and
ecclesiastical courts, the absence of formal training in medicine, and the
infamy of an adulterous wife, de la Torre nevertheless achieved promotion
to the office of protomddico, the highest medical official in New Spain!
Beneath the surface of this brilliantly written and often humorous biog-
raphy are astonishingly clear flashes of a colony desperately short of doctors,
of medical practice as it existed in the mid-sixteenth century, and of colonial
society with its raucous card games and illicit love affairs. Perhaps most
revealing is the picture of the dreaded Inquisition's inefficiency in disposing
of a convicted heretic and of the civil government's inability to cope with
a sharp-witted charlatan.
North Texas State University DONALD CHIPMAN
Plantation, Town, and County: Essays on the Local History of American
Slave Society. Edited by Elinor Miller and Eugene D. Genovese. (Ur-
bana: University of Illinois Press, 1974. PP. 457. $12.95.)
Plantation, Town, and .County calls attention to a much-neglected ap-
proach to the history of American Negro slavery. With a few notable
exceptions, professional historians have scorned local history as provincial
antiquarianism having little or nothing to contribute to a broad under-
standing of southern slave society. Miller and Genovese's collection of
essays reminds us that local history is a useful way to test general interpre-
tations and at the same time to provide new bodies of historical data which
may be probed for additional interpretive insights.
The editors present twenty-one essays which they regard as the best
published local histories of slave society. Part One of the collection contains


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed October 7, 2015.