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María Rostworowski (1915–2016)

Author of History of the Inca Realm

Includes the names: María Rostworowski, María Rostworowski, Maria Rostworowski de Diez Canseco

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Maria Rostworowski was born in Lima, Peru to a Peruvian mother and an aristocratic Polish father. The family moved to France when she was a child, and she attended boarding schools in Poland, Belgium, France and England, including Roedean. Along the way, she learned French, English, and Polish. In Poland with her father, she met a distant cousin, Count Zygmunt Broel-Plater, whom she married. The couple had one daughter before divorcing. In 1935, she returned to Peru, where she remarried the businessman Alejandro Diez-Canseco. She set out to teach herself everything she could about her native land. After her husband died suddenly in 1961, she moved to the leper colony of San Pablo to work as a missionary nurse. Subsequently, she became a cultural assistant in the Peruvian embassy in Spain.

Rostworowski studied history at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, where her teachers included anthropologist John Murra, who motivated her to begin studying ethnic history. In 1953, she published her biography of the Inca emperor Pachacútec, Pachacútec inca Yupanqui. It paved the way for the more extensive and groundbreaking Historia del Tahuantinsuyu (History of the Inca Realm, 1988). These works and others brought the Incas to life for millions of readers and established her as a leading historian of Pre-Columbian culture.

In 1979 she became a member of the National Academy of History (Academia Nacional de Historia), which she later served as vice president. She also headed the Peruvian Association of Ethnic History (Asociación Peruana de Etnohistoria), founded in 1979. For her work, she received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, Volkswagen, Fomciencias, and Concytec.

In 1969, she worked for the newspaper Correo, and was the director of the National History Museum (Museo Nacional de Historia) from 1975-1980. In 1983, she published what she considered her most important work, Estructuras andinas del poder: ideología religiosa y política.
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