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Volume 56 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Venezuela

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

VENEZUELAN HISTORIOGRAPHY HAS UNDERGONE a number of significant changes during the past two decades. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of books and articles written by Venezuelans still deal with political topics, a growing number of professional historians have produced works on previously overlooked economic and social topics. The titles in this section reflect this trend.

Several excellent economic histories have appeared recently. Among these, Germán Galué offers a major study of the origins of the coffee-related commerce of Maracaibo (item bi 92019222). In a similar manner, José Murguey Gutiérrez has surveyed the impact of one of Venezuela's few railways on the economic development of the state of Trujillo (item bi 90011931). The same author has produced an impressive history of the economic and political importance of mining to the development of 19th-century Venezuela (item bi 92019234). The study by María Elena González Deluca also uses railway building to point out the importance of politics in determining the success of businesses in Venezuela during the late 19th century (item bi 93021264).

Rounding out the major economic histories, a multivolume documental work put together by Tomás Enrique Carrillo Batalla, Historia de las finanzas públicas en Venezuela: siglo XX, provides a rich source of data on 20th-century Venezuelan public finance (see HLAS 53:2108).

Three historians have written on social themes of some importance. Ramón Vicente Chacón Vargas' article on epidemics in Caracas during the first half of the 20th century indicts governments for their failure to provide Caracas with sanitary and hygienic conditions beyond those normally associated with rural towns (item bi 92014463). In a long needed look at gender, Ermilia Troconis de Veracoechea has written a pioneering history of the role of women of all classes and races in the evolution of Venezuelan society (item bi 92019225). A study of immigration from the Canary Islands by Manuel Rodríguez Campos (item bi 90011929) reveals the slave-like conditions under which most Canarians arrived in Venezuela and the means by which they overcame their servitude and poverty.

Political studies cannot be overlooked entirely. A generation of revisionist historians - shaped by their work on the Castro/Gómez project and by the historical school of the Univ. Central de Venezuela - have reinterpreted the Gómez era. For a volume of essays by the leading members of the group, see Arturo Sosa et al. (item bi 89004247); Yolanda Segnini's treatment of the immediate post-Gómez era demonstrates the direction the revisionists have taken (item bi 92019228). Two other political works need to be mentioned. Haydée Farías de Urbaneja has completed a solid analysis of the role of the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País (item bi 93021256): she makes a cogent argument that between 1830-40 the SEAP did not control Venezuela's governmental policies in spite of the fact that its ranks included many notable members of society. For students of the Betancourt era, Robert Alexander has shared letters from and conversations with Rómulo Betancourt that explain the politician's actions on a number of major issues (item bi 92019220).

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