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Volume 56 / Humanities


JOHN BRITTON, Professor of History, Francis Marion University

ALTHOUGH THE FLOOD OF QUINCENTENNIAL-RELATED PUBLICATIONS reached its high-water mark in the 1992-93 biennium, discussions of the historical role of Columbus and the nature of the conquest continued to have prominence in the current group of books and articles. New themes emerged, however, that reflected a growing concern among academics about the need to examine the historical roots of contemporary issues. Some critics might complain that this exercise constitutes a form of presentism, but there is also a strong case to be made for these shifts of interest as a normal and healthy part of the academic process. In particular, the publications under study here revealed a focus on the economic evolution of Latin America, perhaps as a reflection of interest in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the overall push toward privatization throughout the hemisphere. A second theme involved studies of the left, perhaps as an outgrowth of the wave of crises that afflicted leftist governments and political parties in the region.

Studies of the colonial period continued to dominate. The Quincentennial emphasis on Columbus and the conquest era remained heavy, but some scholars combined these familiar themes with innovative approaches. Ares Queija's examination of native American reenactments of the conquest in the colonial period provided a valuable perspective on this topic (item bi 94007417). Amidst the loud polemics surrounding the actions of the Spanish conquistadores, Morales Padrón wrote a less strident study of the struggles not only for wealth and power, but also for food, health, and survival (item bi 94011914). Las Casas scholarship was also an active arena, and Gutiérrez's new biography of the defender of native Americans placed the man in the turbulent times of the 16th century (item bi 94011862). Perhaps in response to the condemnatory tone of much of the recent writing on the role of the Spanish and their ethnic descendants in Latin America, Carrera Damas brought forth a collection of essays that examined the sociocultural identity of the criollo population from the colonial period to the modern era (item bi 94011896).

Economic history was an important theme across all historical epochs. The colonial roots of economic and technological innovation were the subjects of two important books: Bernal's broad study of credit and finance (item bi 94011255) and García Tapia's examination of the application of industrial technology from the 1500s-1800s (item bi 94011333). Cortés-Conde presented an incisive analysis of export-driven economic growth from 1880-1930 (item bi 94008675). Guillén examined the larger questions surrounding the event that brought the growth era to an end - the world-wide economic crisis of 1929 (item bi 94008152). With his comprehensive examination of Latin American economic history since the 1820s, Bulmer-Thomas contributed a major work of synthesis: incorporating both international and national trends, the text strikes a sensible balance of narrative, analysis, and quantification (item bi 95001372).

As the Latin American left suffered through severe problems in the 1990s, historians examined some of its crucial episodes in the 19th and 20th centuries. Chasteen's article analyzed leftist rebels' use of broad public appeals to collective identity and self-sacrifice in 1890s Brazil and Uruguay (item bi 94006516). Cruz Capote discussed the first international conference of communist parties in Latin America, held in Buenos Aires in 1929 (item bi 94007194). The migration of Spanish leftists to Latin America in the wake of Franco's fascist victory in the late 1930s is the subject of an interpretive article by Olmos Sánchez (item bi 93009202). The impact of anarchism, the often-forgotten leftist rival to communism, is examined in-depth in a volume of carefully selected writings prefaced by an excellent introductory essay from the pen of Angel Cappelletti.

Publications in social history provided some acute insights on vital topics. Practitioners of women's history were particularly prolific. Lavrin adroitly explored the image of the female ideal within the institutional ambience of the colonial Catholic Church (item bi 93013788). Bermúdez's quartet of essays examined the position of women in late 19th-century Colombia, while providing a broader perspective on the challenges confronting women's history throughout the region (item bi 94011901). Kuznesof reviewed the life-course patterns of women caught up in the initial stages of industrialization (item bi 94009216). Arrom and Guy took the long view in assessing future directions for research in gender history (item bi 94016461 and bi 95010273). The study of religion in the modern era benefited from three exemplary works. Pazos used Vatican archives to buttress his overview of the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1890s (item bi 94011929) while Bastian wrote a pair of penetrating articles on the 20th-century surge of Protestantism in the region (items bi 93016932 and bi 94002882). Taylor and Pease assembled an exceptionally well organized book of thematically linked essays on native American perceptions of and strategies for dealing with the presence of powerful foreign institutions in their societies (item bi 94011868). Taussig's concluding essay punctuates this volume with the disturbing notion that historical/anthropological studies often fail to grasp the nature of these types of power relationships.

The writing of textbooks constitutes one of the most important tasks confronting the professional academician. This biennium saw the appearance of five exceptional entries in this field, each one of which had notable strengths. Pérez Herrero placed the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the broader context of European imperialism (item bi 94011884) while Maza Zavala explained the contrasting colonial efforts of Spain and Great Britain in America in a stimulating study in comparative history (item bi 94011266). Halperín Donghi's survey of Latin America since independence, long a popular and influential textbook in Spanish, is available in English at last in a very readable translation by Chasteen (item bi 93009884). Fuentes and Winn authored two highly literate, interpretive texts linked to their respective video documentaries with the obvious intention of pairing the printed page with the television image in the classroom (items bi 93004664 and bi 94011336).

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