Cobo, Bernabé (1580–1657)

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Cobo, Bernabé (1580–1657)

Bernabé Cobo (b. 1580; d. 1657), Spanish Jesuit scholar of the New World. Father Bernabé Cobo arrived in Lima from Spain in 1599. He spent the rest of his life in different locations in Peru and Mexico, working as a missionary, teacher, and writer. Of the original forty-three books making up his Historia del nuevo mundo (History of the New World, finished 1653, published 1890), seventeen are extant. The first fourteen comprise a study of New World natural history and the history of the Incas; the last three treat the foundation of Lima.

Cobo, like other historians of his era, based his writing on personal observations, interviews with native informants, and the chronicles of other Spanish historians. His views on Inca beliefs and practices are highly judgmental, condemning native religion as diabolical. He provides excellent information on many Inca monuments as they were in the early seventeenth century. The Historia also contributes to our knowledge of the customs of everyday life in Peru before and after the Conquest. The prose is straightforward and clear, tending toward observation and description rather than interpretation.

See alsoPeru: From the Conquest Through Independence .


There are two volumes of Cobo's Historia in English translation; each one includes two books of the original Spanish manuscript. They also offer short, useful introductions to the author and his work. See Bernabé Cobo, History of the Inca Empire (1979) and Inca Religions and Customs (1990), both translated and edited by Roland Hamilton.

Additional Bibliography

Millones-Figueroa, Luis. "La historia natural del padre Bernabé Cobo: Algunas claves para su lectura." Colonial Latin American Research 12:1 (June 2003): 85-87.

Olmo Pintado, Margarita del. "La historia natural en la Historia del Nuevo Mundo del p. Cobo." Revista de Indias 52 (May-December 1992): 795-823.

                                      Kathleen Ross