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Volume 50 / Humanities

HISTORY: CENTRAL AMERICA


STEPHEN WEBRE, Associate Professor of History, Louisiana Tech University
RALPH LEE WOODWARD JR., Professor of History, Tulane University

THE ONGOING CRISES in Central America continue to affect both the quantity and quality of research and publication on the Isthmus. Little new has appeared in El Salvador, and Nicaraguan historical publications are dominated almost exclusively by the Sandino theme. Costa Rica continues to be the most productive state for historical publication, while historical writing in Guatemala, Honduras and Panama reflects growing professionalization. Several brief general histories of individual Central American states have been published recently, although most are little more than chronologies. Fernando González Davison's survey of Guatemalan history (item bi 89005575) and Héctor Pérez Brignoli's overview of Central American history (item bi 89005588) are worthy of note, as are the perceptive Costa Rican anthologies on institutional history edited by Paulino González Villalobos (item bi 89005577) and Vladimir de la Cruz (item bi 89005573).

Although there are still fewer studies of the colonial period than those dealing with later eras, they do remain relatively high in quality. Several important new works which reflect an increasing sophistication in choice of topic and scholarly approach are Linda Newson's books on the historical demography of Honduras (item bi 89005728) and Nicaragua (item bi 89005729), Robert Claxton's essay on colonial weather patterns (item bi 89005640), Elizabeth Fonseca's ambitious study of land tenure in Costa Rica (item bi 89005677), and Severo Martínez Peláez's long-awaited study of Indian rebellions (item bi 89005699). Significant contributions are still possible on traditional topics, as evidenced by, among others, new works on Pedro de Alvarado (item bi 89005678), the Roman Catholic Church (items bi 89005769 and bi 89005767), the colonial militia (items bi 89005727 and bi 89005765), and the destruction and relocation of Guatemala's capital city (items bi 88001342 and bi 89005768).

For the national period, much of the work suffers from inadequate or unscientific research; still, the substantial volume of publication on 19th- and 20th-century Central America includes much of value. The few "major works" included Lowell Gudmundson's reinterpretation of the origins of Costa Rica's social structure (item bi 89006000), Julio Castellanos Cambranes on Guatemalan coffee and peasants (item bi 89005808), Kenneth Finney on Honduran mining (item bi 89005825), Victor Bulmer-Thomas on the Central American economy in the 20th century (item bi 88002290), and Robert Williams on the socioeconomic impact of cotton and beef since 1945 (item bi 89006642). Also notable were Julio Pinto's works on the formation of the State in the early national period (items bi 89005597 and bi 89006042).

Socioeconomic history far outweighed traditional political history both in quantity and quality; McCreery's astute article on prostitution (item bi 89006028) was a significant contribution to the social history of Guatemala. There was also a notable increase in labor histories, led by an excellent anthology edited by Pablo González Casanova (item bi 89005829). Other important research on labor history included that of Vladimir de la Cruz (item bi 89005817), Jeffrey Gould (item bi 89005999), Antonio Murga Frassinetti (item bi 89006036), Arturo Taracena Arriola (item bi 89006049), and David McCreery (item bi 89006029). González Casanova's collection of essays on 20th-century Central America from a Mexican perspective (item bi 89005828) is also interesting.


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