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Volume 50 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Venezuela

WINTHROP R. WRIGHT, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland, College Park

VENEZUELAN HISTORIOGRAPHY has entered a new era during the past five or six years. Although political studies still abound, a significant number of historians trained in new methodological techniques have dealt with rich social and economic themes. As noted in the last volume, HLAS 48, several have written excellent works on regional topics. Others have used a broader national approach. Most importantly, the quality of all these studies continues to improve, no matter what the scope.

The publication of Arturo G. Muñoz's study of Táchira (item bi 89006433) is an important contribution to the understanding of regionalism in modern Venezuela. Muñoz blends political and economic topics into a clear discussion of the difficult relationship between Tachirense and Caracas-based elites during the 19th century. He paints a particularly vivid picture of liberal and conservative influences upon the leaders of Táchira, which he depicts as an isolated frontier between Venezuela and Colombia. In much the same manner, Tarcila Briceño (item bi 89006458) presents a well thought out discussion of the production of cattle on the central llanos of western Venezuela. The book explains the decline of an essential industry as the result of inefficient production and marketing procedures. Nelson Paredes Huggins (item bi 89006437) offers an informative analysis of land and water transportation systems in western Venezuela during the first decade of the present century. His results show why, by 1910, Maracaibo controlled the networks of the region. A small study by Antonio González Antías (item bi 89006445) demonstrates the importance during the 19th century of coffee production to the Chacao district of Caracas.

As in the past, document collections published under the auspices of government agencies and institutions provide a rich source of information about Venezuela's past. Two merit mention; the first, El pensamiento político venezolano del siglo XX (item bi 89006435), comprises some 32 volumes of documents from opponents of the Gómez dictatorship (1908-41); the second, Los hombres del benemérito: epistolario inédito (item bi 89006446), prepared by the Castro/Gómez project of the Univ. Central de Venezuela, makes available a wealth of information about the people associated with Gómez. Another study about Gómez, by Ciro Caraballo Perichi (item bi 89006449), demonstrates how Gómez employed public works, festivities and culture to fashion a cult dedicated to his leadership. Thanks to the Academia Nacional de la Historia, which published Opúsculo histórico de la revolución, desde el año 1858 a 1859 (item bi 89006454), an important document from the early years of the Federal War is now possible to obtain.

Readers will find three other items worth reading. Mario Rodríguez has written a thorough review of the problems faced by the founders of the First Republic in 1811 in establishing a constitutional base for their new nation (item bi 89006434). Some of the same questions are addressed in a provocative study of the election of 1835 (item bi 89006447) by Eleonora Gabaldón, who concludes that military caudillos won a struggle for power at the expense of civilian elites who equated democracy with civilization. Finally, Julio Godio has written a comprehensive general history of the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela and its relationship with the Acción Democrática party (item bi 89006436). He attributes the growth of democracy in Venezuela in large part to the formation of the CTV and its domination of organized labor.

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