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Land without Masters

Land without Masters
Agrarian Reform and Political Change under Peru's Military Government

A fresh perspective on the way the Peruvian government's major 1969 agrarian reforms transformed the social, cultural, and political landscape of the country.

April 2021
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248 pages | 6 x 9 | 18 b&w photos, 1 map |

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.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • 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.


“Anna Cant’s research on Peru's historical and transformational agrarian reform is important and innovative. Her intrepid work draws from a wide variety of source materials, such as posters, pamphlets, film, newspapers, government reports, and oral history, to show how the state used the reform to promote social equality and popular political participation. It is a must read for those who study social and cultural change from the government on down.”
Michael Albertus, University of Chicago, coauthor of Authoritarianism and the Elite Origins of Democracy