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Volume 50 / Humanities

HISTORY: GENERAL HISTORY


JAMES D. RILEY, Professor of History, The Catholic University of America

ALTHOUGH THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES for this biennium rose slightly, the overall quality is disappointing. The several synthetic treatments which appeared were quite derivative, and there were few monographic works which provide more than slight additional detail for the corpus of historical knowledge. Sadly, most of the work reviewed - both monographic and synthetic - suffered from the superficiality which results from the lack of a solid base of research.

As in previous Handbook volumes, approximately two-thirds of total entries annotated below continue to appear in the colonial subsection but the era of discovery has not yet generated the anticipated deluge of works related to the quincentennial celebration. What appeared on that subject during this biennium is hardly memorable. This is highlighted by the fact that the best work on the early colonial period was a reedition of Manuel Giménez Fernández's vol. 2 of the life-and-times biography of Bartolomé de Las Casas (item bi 89003589).

Surprisingly, the majority of works consisted of older-style administrative and political history. Most did not go beyond a simplistic study of the Recopilación or other administrative texts. The best articles were an interesting study of imperial deliberations in 1568 by Ramos (item bi 89003703) and an analysis by Sánchez Bella of the law codes in use among practicing jurists prior to the appearance of the Recopilación (item bi 89003705). Readers might also like to consult an interesting piece by Marchena Fernández (item bi 89003691) on the influence of military ideas from Flanders on New World practice in the 16th century, and Archer's study of the defense of the Pacific (item bi 88000389).

Two books by North Americans, however, are the most notable contributions. One is the posthumous publication of John Tate Lanning's work on the Protomedicato (item bi 89003595), and the other is Burkholder's very useful biographical dictionary of the Councilors of the Indies (item bi 89003556). This latter is without question the best work in the general subsection and is essential for colonial scholars.

Little appeared on colonial social and economic history. Richard Steckel's work on slave mortality (item bi 89003715) is the best of the few monographic studies, although Tabla Ducasse's little piece (item bi 89003722) on 16th-century immigration is notable because of the innovative use of Church documents usually regarded as not pertinent to immigration studies. Beyond these works, John Fisher's useful statistical study on trade (item bi 89003583) deserves mention as does a collection of essays on commerce between the Caribbean and Spain which contains some solid archival contributions (item bi 89003597). The best bibliographical contribution is John Kicza's study of the literature on social and ethnic history (item bi 88000826).

One final work which appears in the colonial subsection, but which does not fit under a specific category ought to be mentioned: Vicenta Cortés' study of the scribal profession which is masquerading as a handbook of paleography (item bi 89003566). Graduate students in colonial history should obtain it.

Among the few publications listed in the 19th- and 20th-century subsections, little needs to be mentioned. David Eltis' statistical study of the slave trade contains useful information (item bi 89003750), and Richard Morse's idiosyncratic essay on contemporary culture (item bi 89003736) is thought-provoking. The best books are Mark Gilderhus' study of Wilsonian diplomacy (item bi 89003610), and Michael Costeloe's study of Spanish responses to the revolutions for independence (item bi 88000722).

The general subsection is characterized by a number of essay collections, bibliographical essays and general treatments of an ideological bent. There are few monographs and no solidly researched broad studies. The best collection of essays comes from the 7th Congress of European Latin Americanists (item bi 89003411) followed closely by the papers of a conference (Lima, 1978) edited by Enrique Florescano (item bi 89003442). Both contain a number of important monographic contributions of which scholars should be aware. Another useful work is Arnold Bauer's gathering of previously published work on the Church (item bi 89003429). This collection coheres and provides a useful synthesis of the Church's role in the economy. Among the bibliographical essays, the best is Lavrin's study of literature on women (item bi 89003432) followed closely by Nelles' examination of research in business history (item bi 89003439).


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