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Volume 52 / Humanities


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

RESEARCH ON GENERAL TOPICS during the late 1980s was shaped by three overlapping celebrations: the Columbus Quincentennial; the quincentennial of the birth of Bartolomé de Las Casas; and the bicentennial of the reign of Charles III. Interest was high on issues related to Columbus himself, Spanish exploration in general, Iberian mentalities, the impact of Europe on the New World, and the character of late-Bourbon policy.

While (as always) the great majority of the works produced on these subjects were quite forgettable, the production included some notable contributions. In addition to the reissuance of the collected writings of Las Casas, the commemoration of his birth also produced a first rate biography by Pedro Borges (item bi 91012665). A number of works focused on the issues that Las Casas raised and the general question of evangelization in the Americas. A collection of papers from a conference on Franciscans in the New World is worthy of note (item bi 90014303), as are a collection organized by Susan Ramírez (item bi 90007567) and an intriguing article on Fray Alonso de Maldonado by Carlos Sempat Assadourian (item bi 90009192).

Columbus, specifically, and European explorations, in general, did not fare as well. Almost all of the works produced on these themes simply rehashed the old controversies or dealt with minor points. Sadly, no new biographies of the principal characters have yet appeared; this gap will hopefully be filled during the next biennium. About the only fresh approach to these questions was provided by David Henige (item bi 89013986).

Work on other colonial topics was spotty. Few book-length contributions appeared, but colonial social history was strengthened by a very interesting collection of essays edited by Asunción Lavrin on Sexuality and marriage in colonial Latin America (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1989; articles have been annotated individually below). Two pieces included in this book break new ground: Ann Twinam's essay dealing with concepts of honor among colonial elites (item bi 90004040) and Richard Boyer's work on women's perceptions of their rights in marriage (item bi 90004044).

Work on the 19th century centered on issues revolving around the Cortes of 1812 and commerce. The best book-length monograph was Frank Dawson's treatment of loans during the first decade of independence (item bi 91012669), while the best article was an interpretative essay by William Glade (item bi 89014721) on debates over tariffs in the early republics.

As always, issues related to diplomacy and international relations dominated the 20th-century section. Bill Albert's book on the impact of World War I (item bi 89007289) and Paul Drake's on the impact of financial experts in shaping Latin America's economic growth (item bi 91012646) are very well done. Those interested in labor history would be well advised to consult the essay by Emilia Viotti da Costa (item bi 90013751) and its related commentaries (items bi 90013755, bi 90013757, bi 90013756, and bi 90013753) which provide an excellent overview of recent work in that area.

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