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Volume 54 / Humanities


JOHN BRITTON, Professor of History, Francis Marion University

THE SUBSTANTIAL INCREASE in the number of items in the "General History" section was largely the result of Quincentenary-related publications in Latin America, Spain, the US, and Great Britain. While the quality of these publications varied widely, and scholarly circumspection sometimes capitulated to ideological and political purposes, overall this crop of books and articles brought forth a healthy harvest.

There is a temptation to concentrate on studies of the first encounter of Europe and America, but such an approach would do a disservice to those authors who, after years of research and writing on important but non-Quincentenary topics, saw their work reach the printed page in this biennium. Therefore, this essay will cover the full range of historical writing customary for the General section of the Handbook.

Two outstanding monographs that reach into the wider realm of Latin American history were Saúl Franco Agudelo's extensive treatment of malaria and the medical responses to this dreaded disease (item bi 92001572) and Pablo Emilio Pérez-Mallaina's social and cultural history of the everyday lives of 16th-century sailors (item bi 92015061). A large outpouring of books on the influence of particular Spanish regions and ethnic groups in America included Lutgardo García Fuentes' exemplary study of the role of the Basques in the colonial iron and steel industry (item bi 93008650).

Three works of considerable importance appeared in the field of intellectual history. Anthony Pagden's stimulating but pessimistic evaluation of European intellectuals' efforts to deal with New World cultures contains a disturbing message for students of any area or region (item bi 93005820). David Brading's monumental study of the origins, evolution and demise of a distinctive Creole national identity in Spanish America extends from the early colonial period to the middle of the 19th century and concentrates on Mexico and Peru (item bi 94004813). Luis Vitale courageously ventured onto dangerous ground with his challenging theses concerning the construction of a theoretical framework drawn uniquely from, and applicable to, the Latin American historical experience (item bi 93001585).

The controversy that surrounded the Quincentenary was often disruptive, but it also produced some enlightenment about the encounter and its consequences as well as the continued relevance of events from a half millennium ago. Kirkpatrick Sale wrote perhaps the most extensive condemnation of the European conquest and colonization (item bi 92015666), a piece especially of merit for its sharply focused statement of that position. Steven Stern's article brought together a rare combination of erudition, analytical thinking, tempered judgement, and brevity to view this era from a balanced historical and political perspective (item bi 93009049). From a very promising and much more specialized approach, Luis Ramos Gómez authored three articles on the complex relationships between Columbus and native Americans with an emphasis on the point of view of the latter (items bi 92000924, bi 92009859, and bi 92014186). Valerie Flint proved the ideas and ideals of Columbus in a highly readable exploration of his "imaginative landscape" (item bi 93001578).

In addition to the works of Ramos and Stern, several articles made especially valuable contributions to the difficult process of synthesis: José López Piñero's work on Nicolás Monardes was a solid contribution to colonial medical history (item bi 92013055); Allan Kuethe and Lowell Blaisdell added depth to the understanding of the Bourbon era in Spain and colonial America (item bi 91026629); Juan Ortega y Medina continued to provide his penetrating insights in a study of 19th-century cultural imperialism (item bi 92012241); Carlos Newland wrote an impressive synthesis of trends in 19th-century primary schooling (item bi 91027322); Florencia Mallon made a highly successful venture into the field of comparative history with her study of Indian communities and the State in Mexico and the Andes (item bi 93009050); and Emília Viotti da Costa brought much-needed academic perspective to a review essay in the changing field of post-Cold War labor history (item bi 92003029).

Three edited publications brought together informed and important short pieces that contributed to the understanding of the larger aspects of Latin American history: 1) the conference proceedings from the 4th Jornadas de Historiadores Americanistas, entitled América: religión y cosmos (item bi 93001571); 2) John Verano and Douglas Ubelaker's volume on disease and demography which provided considerable depth (item bi 93001549); and 3) editors Tulio Halperín Donghi, Victor Bulmer-Thomas, and Laurence Whitehead of The Journal of Latin American Studies whose special Quincentenary supplement contains an unusually perceptive group of articles that encompass major trends throughout the region (item bi 93009059).

This biennium also marked the appearance of Latin America and the Caribbean: a critical guide to research sources, an especially useful research guide edited by Paula Covington containing a valuable group of historiographical and bibliographical essays by David Block (item bi 92013801), Paula Covington (item bi 93005496), Lyman L. Johnson and Susan Socolow (item bi 93005502), Frank Safford (item bi 93005503), and Richard Slatta (item bi 93005504).

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