Private law touches every aspect of people's daily lives-landholding, inheritance, private property, marriage and family relations, contracts, employment, and business dealings-and the court records and legal documents produced under private law are a rich source of information for anyone researching social, political, economic, or environmental history. But to utilize these records fully, researchers need a fundamental understanding of how private law and legal institutions functioned in the place and time period under study.This book offers the first comprehensive introduction in either English or Spanish to private law in Spanish Latin America from the colonial period to the present. M. C. Mirow organizes the book into three substantial sections that describe private law and legal institutions in the colonial period, the independence era and nineteenth century, and the twentieth century. Each section begins with an introduction to the nature and function of private law during the period and discusses such topics as legal education and lawyers, legal sources, courts, land, inheritance, commercial law, family law, and personal status. Each section also presents themes of special interest during its respective time period, including slavery, Indian status, codification, land reform, and development and globalization.