[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Volume 50 / Humanities

HISTORY: MEXICO


General and Colonial

ASUNCION LAVRIN, Professor of History, Howard University
EDITH B. COUTURIER, National Endowment for the Humanities

THE HISTORIOGRAPHICAL PRODUCTION on general and colonial Mexican topics covered in HLAS 50 is wide-ranging. Research trends in social history are accommodating new topics, such as sexuality, while maintaining the general course noted in previous Handbooks. Other well-established areas of research, such as economic and ecclesiastical history, continue to command attention. Mostly, we note an increase in the use of interdisciplinary techniques which make historical works both difficult to place in any specific niche and more adequate mirrors of the complexities of past realities.

The cataloging of regional archives continues to yield useful guides. We would like to highlight the fine work of Israel Cavazos Garza (item bi 89005101) in the notarial records of 18th-century Monterrey, and the several volumes listing holdings of the General Archives of the state of Oaxaca (items bi 89005026, bi 89005025, bi 89005023, bi 89005024 and bi 88000204). The inventory and guide for the important Franciscan collection in Coyoacán will prove useful for ecclesiastical and social historians (item bi 90002878). The reprints of two important documentary collections deserve mention insofar as they are important tools for young researchers and essential library acquisitions: Silvio Zavala's series on labor and José M. Hernández Dávalos' collection on the wars of independence (items bi 88000832 and bi 88000833). The many essays prepared for the festschrift to the late Jorge Gurría Lacroix cannot be listed individually here, but we refer the reader to the complete volume for the variety of its topics (item bi 89005059).

The works annotated below cover a wide variety of themes. In contrast to a decade ago, when hacienda studies seemed to reign supreme in research and academic discussion, there is currently no one subject that predominates over others. Economic and social history - or most often a skillful blending of both - continue to serve as the preferred approach to both general studies on Mexico and the colonial period. An important and illustrative example of this type of examination is John Tutino's study of agrarian politics from the mid-18th century through 1940 (item bi 89005060). One work that departs from this trend, however, is Luis Weckmann's two-volume study of the process of cultural transmission from Spain to New Spain (item bi 89005144), a well-researched inquiry into this difficult subject.

In the socioeconomic field, the best studies were devoted to mining and agriculture. Elinor Barrett has completed a study of copper mining (item bi 89005238) that lives up to her customary high standards of research. Labor rather than production is the focus of two important studies on the Real del Monte mines, which helped create a legend around the family of the Counts of Regla. The Real del Monte labor troubles in the second half of the 18th century have been subject to various interpretations by several authors. Doris Ladd (item bi 89005366) devotes a book-length study to this topic and the strike of 1766, while Noblet B. Danks analyzes it in a journal article (item bi 89005263). The authors differ in their interpretations and the reader is urged to consult both. Labor history also profited from the publication of Castro Gutiérrez's study of artisans in Mexico City (item bi 90002829).

Peter Bakewell's study comparing Charcas and New Spain in the 17th century is a useful effort that depicts mining as a key economic factor in diverse regions of Spanish America (item bi 89005075). Other important economic works share Bakewell's comparative approach. The volume edited by Nils Jacobsen and Hans-Jurgen Puhle (item bi 89005111) gathers studies on mining, tobacco, the textile industry, agriculture and the exchequer by a roster of well-known economic and social historians. As a group they pose important questions and suggest new routes of investigation. Magnus Mörner (item bi 89004858) also makes a plea for the continuation of such regional studies.

Another rigorous economic work by Herbert Klein (item bi 89005123) summarizes his interpretation as based on a quantitative analysis of the royal exchequer. A general appraisal of the salt industry in Mexico by Ursula Ewald (item bi 89005027) completes the gamut of thematic industrial studies.

In an effort to revise dependency theories of the 1960s, partly based on sweeping interpretations of the colonial economy, Arij Ouweneel and Cristina Torales Pacheco have compiled a collection of essays which review the economy of central Mexico in its multiple facets: regional markets, demography and production, the role of Indian towns in the local economy, etc. This important compilation on the regional economy argues in favor of reinterpretations and a fresh look at new sources of research (item bi 89005155; see also bi 89005267, bi 89005307, bi 89005126, bi 89005386, bi 89005387, bi 89005438, bi 89005446, bi 89005080 and bi 89005378). Two other worthwhile works examine regional economies in a search for patterns and meaning over time: Eric Van Young amplifies his previous work on Jalisco (item bi 89005497), while Garavaglia and Grosso offer a plausible new explanation for Puebla's decline in the 18th century (item bi 89005303).

Several important studies focus on Indian communities. Historians and ethnohistorians are engaged in finding the mechanisms that bind indigenous communities together and the manner in which they adapted to a colonial system while preserving their own traditions. Works by Robert Haskett (item bi 89003839), Lockhart et al. (item bi 89005369), and Solís et al. (item bi 89005445) suggest that a reexamination of the anatomy and functions of town government is a promising and fruitful route to detecting neglected historical nuances. In a search for broad social responses, Serge Gruzinski (item bi 89005355) offers an in-depth analysis of the process of adaptation and challenge of the indigenous world-view to Western values. The result is an admirable exercise in the interpretation of visual and written sources. Several of the studies in Arij Ouweneel's compilation underscore the economic importance of Indian towns in the local economies (items bi 89005155).

A moderate number of thoughtful works have been published on Church history; we should like to highlight those by Poole, (item bi 89005405), J.F. Schwaller (item bi 89005433), Victoria H. Cummins (item bi 89005247), and Ann Staples (item bi 89005436). The 16th-century secular Church and the controversial origins of the policies of regalism are dominant concerns in these studies, which stand in contrast to past predilections for the history of the orders and the process of religious conversion. However, one notable work on the ideological meaning of the missionary activities of the Franciscans by José Sala Catalá and Jaime Vilchis Reyes (item bi 89005413) attests to the continuing attraction of the missionary theme. Edmundo O'Gorman's analysis of the Guadalupan cult constitutes a notable effort to demythologize the subject (item bi 89005384). We should also note that Richard Greenleaf's many works on the Inquisition have been translated and are now available to the Spanish-speaking world (item bi 89005122).

One major work of synthesis and several shorter survey-essays on colonial women recently published succeed in stimulating interest on the subject. Pilar Gonzalbo Aizpuru (item bi 89005121) deserves much credit for writing the first comprehensive synthesis of the history of women in the colonial period, a work which will remain useful for many years. Shorter works synthesize information or analyze case studies of specific incidents (items bi 89005347, bi 89005332, bi 89005178, bi 89005181, and bi 89003827).

The field of gender relations and sexuality are new topics that now command much interest. Of interest in the study of gender relations is Ramón Gutiérrez's work on honor, marriage and class in the northern frontiers of New Spain (item bi 89005523). By exploring the contradictory realities of religious norms and the understructures of individual behavior, the collection of essays edited by Sergio Ortega (item bi 89005179) enriches our knowledge of colonial daily life and social practices. Several essays in this compilation are annotated separately (see items bi 89005236, bi 89005314, bi 89005352, bi 89005361, bi 89005385, and bi 89005411). Of particular interest to social historians is François Giraud's study of rape (item bi 89005337), a rare topic of research in the past.

Family history, whether quantitative or qualitative has received very little attention over the last few years. Works such as Cristina Torales Pacheco's study of the merchant Francisco de Iraeta (item bi 89005446) do shed some light on this subject, but an examination of the concerns of one family is not sufficient to strengthen the literature on the subject.

The scarcity of good studies of the independence period is redeemed by Bryan Hamnett's solid work on the subject which summarizes many years of research (item bi 89005364). One competent work on the military in Michoacán merits attention (item bi 89005471). Yucatecan studies were equally sparse but were saved by the publication of Inga Clendinnen's recreation of the process of conquest and settlement (item bi 89005245), a most readable account that also serves as a classic synthesis. Worth mentioning because of its unusual topic and interesting rendition is the study of colonial popular culture by Juan Pedro Viqueira (item bi 89000887). Dennis Valdés' essay (item bi 89005463) on the decline of slavery in Mexico City is the only work worth mentioning on the subject, although Fernando Winfield's documentary sampling suggest the possibility of further research on slavery (item bi 89005295). Lastly, we should mention the effort of the Seminario Americanista of the Univ. of Valladolid to analyze the structure and nature of political power in the colonial system through the analysis of legal texts (see, for example, items bi 89005426 and bi 89005414).

The North and Borderlands profited from several essays discussing issues and methodology (items bi 89005515, bi 89005509, bi 89005520, and bi 89005535). However, the number of works on this area is in decline. Main themes of current research are labor and demography (items bi 89005517, bi 89005526, and bi 89005554). The reissues of works by missionary Fray Simón del Hierro (items bi 89005514) and early historians of Nuevo León (item bi 89005529) are welcomed additions to the literature. The most notable effort in terms of accessing materials from the past belongs to Thomas Naylor and Charles Polzer (item bi 89005548) for their documentary history. A noteworthy contribution to administration and politics in the northern provinces is the work of Guillermo Porras Muñoz (item bi 89005538). The growing interest in regional history, as witnessed by the Symposium on the History of Sonora (item bi 89005553), may soon lead to more publications on the subject.


Go to the:


Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (01/07/05)