[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Volume 56 / Humanities


Colonial Period

MICHAEL T. HAMERLY, Independent Consultant, Seattle, Washington
SUSAN M. SOCOLOW, Professor of History, Emory University
LANCE R. GRAHN, Associate Professor and Assistant Chairperson of the Department of History, Marquette University

WE HAVE HAD TO LIMIT our introductory remarks even more in this Handbook than in HLAS 54 inasmuch as historians continue to produce an exceptionally abundant and succulent harvest. Even applying more stringent criteria for inclusion, an unprecedented number of new and recent articles, books, and published sources, altogether 504 items, proved to be worthy of our table.

Insofar as general works are concerned, the most appealing is Estados y naciones en los Andes (item bi 96011115), in which historians of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia adopt a truly comparative approach to the century and a half following the independence of their countries. Turning to the colonial period proper, it should be noted that the proceedings of the 1986 Symposium on the Earth-Measuring Expedition of 1736 were finally forthcoming (item bi 96012341). In addition, the compiler and other particulars of the early 17th-century relaciones geográficas have now been established (see vol. 1 of the new critical edition, item bi 96017792). [MTH]


Historiographical trends for colonial Venezuela remain much as they have been in recent years. The topics of slavery, independence, cacao production, and regionalism again dominate this biennium. In part, this continuity of research agendas reflects the productivity of the Academia Nacional de Historia, but it also demonstrates the investigative energy that these subjects still generate. Historians of colonial Venezuela are putting together these well-worn themes in new combinations that give them fresh life and interest.

Tronconis de Veracoechea (item bi 94008882) and Rojas (item bi 94008382), for example, illustrate that the 1795 Coro slave revolt is still accorded national significance for its representation of nascent and multicultural sentiment for independence. Nonetheless, the several articles on civil unrest in the late 18th century (items bi 93009000, bi 93009484, bi 94008382, bi 94008882, and bi 95001950) delineate the unique combination of slave rebelliousness, class conflict, French revolutionary ideology, and international commercial relationships that fostered Venezuelan nationhood.

The generally localized nature of these historical events and modern studies points to the continuing sway of regional and local perspectives. Economic and mission history have been defined as much as aspects of geographical identity, as activities situated in a particular place. Thus, whether it be studies of cacao production (items bi 94007399, bi 95001184, and bi 95010202) or examinations of Capuchin and Jesuit missions (items bi 95001187, bi 97009239, and bi 95001172), a sense of place dominates the work. The titles of three recent books, Tierra, gobierno local y actividad misionera en la comunidad indígena del oriente venezolano (item bi 97009239), The town of San Felipe and colonial cacao economies (item bi 95001184), and La Nueva Segovia de Bariquiçimeto (item bi 95001166) exemplify the analytical prominence of locality. At the same time, these three studies typify how microanalysis illustrates larger patterns of colonial life, such as ethnic tensions, international trade, and material culture, respectively.

The aforementioned book on Bariquiçimeto by Avellán de Tamayo also represents the strength of recent reference works (item bi 95001166). In the long run, this study will likely prove valuable both as a handbook on material and popular culture and as an exemplary municipal history. Similarly, Vaccari de Venturini's survey of Venezuelan governors (item bi 98003343) and Grases' historiographical essay (item bi 93020310) are welcome research tools that invite continuing investigation.


As with colonial Venezuela, the current trends of recent colonial Colombian historiography are familiar. For example, biographical studies of well-known figures, such as José Celestino Mutis and Antonio de la Torre y Miranda, continue to multiply. Duque Gómez's tribute to Mutis illustrates the positive tone that characterizes these works, as well as the national historical pride vested in this famous teacher and investigator (item bi 94010960). Historians gave similarly high praise to Torre (items bi 94007296 and bi 95001198) and Antonio Caballero y Góngora (item bi 94008895). Gratifyingly, modern biographers increasingly place their protagonists in a fuller scientific or political context. The splendid two-volume set, Mutis y la Real Expedición Botánica (item bi 95001169), and the articles by Restrepo Forero (item bi 94007942) and Ruiz Martínez (item bi 94010964) clarify the intellectual dynamics and modernity of late Bourbon culture in the viceroyalty.

The thematic significance of Indian resguardos is equally evident this biennium in the work of Velásquez (item bi 93009347), Sosa Abella (item bi 95001186), González (item bi 95001191), and Luna (item bi 94001194). The institutional core, reiterated by the reissue of González's 1970 text, remains sound. The analyses by Sosa Abella and Tovar (item bi 94000519) exhibit the development and continuing potential of resguardo social history.

Regional history represents a third major historiographical focus in recent years. Here, the work and influence of Germán Colmenares is particularly evident (item bi 94008890). His own emphasis on the dynamic interplay between social and economic development is used by others, such as Suárez de Alvarez (item bi 94008936), Mejía Prado (item bi 95001193), and Díaz López (bi 95001177), to elucidate regional distinctiveness, structures, and identities.

Finally, Anthony McFarlane's Colombia before independence (item bi 95001167) and the Archivo General de la Nación's Censo-guía y estadística de los archivos de Antioquia (item bi 95001173) deserve special mention. McFarlane's study of 18th-century New Granada puts customary themes such as regionalism and viceregal accomplishment into a long-needed synthesis of the Bourbon century. With its wealth of information, the archival guide for Antioquia should facilitate and foster not only regional and local history, but also analyses of the breadth of colonial society. [LG]


Historical and related output on the former Presidency of Quito has been much more substantial and of a higher quality in recent years than reported in HLAS 54. Furthermore, so much good work has been done of late and continues to be done that reporting upon everything of significance will be the work of at least the two forthcoming Handbooks (Vols. 58 and 60). The recent robustness of Ecuadorian historiography is not without its down side, however; for instance, the Banco Central del Ecuador's Cultura ceased publication about ten years ago. Fortunately, the Banco's Revista Ecuatoriana de Historia Económica is still going strong, and a major new journal, Procesos: Revista Ecuatoriana de Historia, appeared in 1991.

Other major developments include the passing of the Old Guard. Jorge Salvador Lara (b. 1926), whose recent credits include a new general history of Ecuador (item bi 96017938) and the most comprehensive history of the city of Quito to date (item bi 94015641), will probably turn out to be the last of the great traditional historians. The demise of the aficionados and of the autodidacts is more than compensated for by the appearance of a substantial group of recently trained nationals, including women, mostly from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador and the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, both in Quito. The caliber of productivity of the new historians and of their mentors is impressive as evidenced in this Handbook, for example, in the original theses on the protectorate of Indians (item bi 94015650), on the Chota River Valley (item bi 94015660), and on the cinchona trade (item bi 95004329).

Several more North American and European scholars have joined the ranks of colonial-period Ecuadorianists. See, for example, Newson's long-anticipated Life and death in early colonial Ecuador (item bi 96006607) or Volland's also long-awaited study of the postconquest history of the Indians of the coast, (item bi 97002290). Other researchers have added to their impressive earlier works with major new monographs, most notably Minchom, The people of Quito (item bi 94004409); Ortiz de la Tabla Ducasse, Lost encomenderos de Quito (item bi 96017978); and Powers, Andean journeys (item bi 96011242). Neither should one ignore the lesser gems by the Spaniard Paniagua Pérez (items bi 96012286 and bi 96012287) or the Frenchman Poloni (items bi 94007748 and bi 94008285), or, for more recent developments, La producción historiográfica sobre el Ecuador en los últimos 25 años (item bi 96012356).


The harvest of works on Lower Peru continues to be extraordinarily bountiful. Alarco has produced yet another volume in his monumental history of Peru (item bi 95004319). Much more important are the mostly new Compendio histórico del Perú - of which vols. 2-4 are devoted to the colonial period (item bi 94015632) - and Lazo García's extraordinarily rich and exceptionally important history of money in Upper as well as Lower Peru (item bi 94015643). Just as impressive is Macera's Precios del Perú (item bi 94015636). Both Lazo García's and Macera's works are major benchmarks in Peruvian historiography. Not only do they add enormously to our knowledge of the colonial period, but they will force considerable reworking thereof.

Indeed almost all of the recent and new work on the colonial period of Peru proper is impressive in one way or another. To single out one or more articles or other books for additional commendation would be to slight far too many authors and their works. But I would be remiss in not calling attention to Barriga Calle's not-at-all morbid "La experiencia de la muerte en Lima" (item bi 93024553), Hampe Martínez's thoughtful and thought-provoking "Hacia una nueva periodización de la historia del Perú colonial" (item bi 94008363), Henige's deliciously truculent "Counting the encounter" (item bi 96012256) or Iwasaki Cauti's fascinating "Mujeres al borde de la perfección" (item bi 94006288). To be invidious, the most readable new book in English struck this contributor to be Mills' An evil lost to view? (item bi 94012055), and the most readable in Spanish to be Alfonso W. Quiroz's Deudas olvidadas (item bi 94015661). Both works, moreover, are original and important contributions.


There continue to be at least as many, if not more, North Americans and Europeans at work on the history of Upper Peru as there are Bolivians. Insofar as the production of the last few years is concerned, the large number of major monographs in general and of books in English in particular is especially significant. A substantial and quite comprehensive body of literature on the colonial period now exists in English, bolstered by the appearance of at least six new books during the last biennium. Furthermore, Bolivian historiography has become so healthy that scholars no longer hesitate to reexamine previously- studied regions or materials. To wit, Jackson takes on Larson in his reexamination of the agrarian history of Cochabamba (item bi 96011261) and Klein reassesses his own data in his ongoing studies of the demography and economy of La Paz province (item bi 95004322). At the same time, less well-known areas have come under close scrutiny. Both Cornblit and Zulawski, for example, considerably enhance and elucidate the history of the mining town and district of Oruro (items bi 96011260 and bi 95007461).


Output on the former Captaincy General of Chile remains much the same: substantial, sophisticated, and almost exclusively in the hands of national scholars. Flusche appears to be the only North American publishing regularly on the colonial period (items bi 95021159 and bi 95002413). Why this should be so when there are so many North Americans and Europeans working on Quito and Lower and Upper Peru eludes this contributor. Although the majority of studies annotated here rework known ground, some innovative work such as Vargas Cariola's pioneering essay on daily 17th-century military life (item bi 94008041) or Sánchez's wholly original "Régimen Económico de una Parroquia Rural" (item bi 94007480) did appear. As usual, appreciably more articles - almost all of which were of a high caliber - than books were published. Clearly the least interesting as well as longest book was Retamal Favereau, Celis Atria, and Muñoz Correa's minute but lackluster Familias fundadoras de Chile (item bi 94015626). The most exciting and the best monograph — in this contributor's opinion — was Bravo Lira's El absolutismo ilustrado en Hispanoamérica: Chile, 1760-1860, de Carlos III a Portales y Montt (item bi 95004316). [MTH]


The major debate in colonial Argentine historiography continues to be the great "gaucho-peasant" controversy. It now seems clear that the peasants have, at least temporarily, been victorious, but the discussion continues as to the condition of the newly discovered and ubiquitous peasantry. Among the most productive and best scholars, Gelman (items bi 95008451, bi 93016948, and bi 94008987), Garavaglia (items bi 95008017, bi 95008016, bi 93025060, and bi 95002055), and Mayo (item bi 95002050) are the dominant figures, but important contributions to a further understanding of the economy of the frontier are also being made by Canedo (items bi 95008018 and bi 95001758). While these scholars present a picture of a relatively prosperous peasantry, Gresores sees that same peasantry as a landless, exploited proletariat (items bi 95002043 and bi 94001738). A related interest in the history of Indian-Spanish relations along the bonarense frontier continues (items bi 95007988, bi 94008035, and bi 94010230).

There has also been a strong interest in the history of bureaucrats and bureaucracy, focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on the Viceregal period (items bi 95002032, bi 94003092, bi 95010203, bi 94004091, bi 95002029, bi 95002046, bi 94008367, bi 94005766, and bi 94003754) and on educational reforms under the Bourbons (items bi 93013982 and bi 94007392).

Important demographic studies have emerged, ranging from whole populations to subgroups, among them the meticulous work of Celton (items bi 95001298 and bi 94009217), Ferreyra (item bi 96009134), Arcondo (item bi 94003865), Boleda (item bi 95002775), García Belsunce (item bi 95001398), Lorandi and Ferreiro (item bi 93020341), and Ruedi and Somoza (item bi 94008772). The first three of these historians also reflect the growth of strong work on the history of Córdoba (see also Punta, item bi 95004469 and Romero Cabrera, items bi 94007388 and bi 95002056) and a general interest in regions of the Interior. The history of colonial women is also becoming a consistent and interesting topic for rioplatense historiography (items bi 95007978, bi 93020315, bi 94003094, and bi 95001425), and work is beginning to appear on criminality (items bi 95007979 and bi 94007665).

Very few studies of the colonial history of the Banda Oriental (present-day Uruguay) have appeared. On the other hand, a respectable amount of work centers on colonial Paraguay and northern Argentina, including several studies on the Jesuit missions (items bi 95002040, bi 95002033, bi 95004066, bi 95002024, bi 94008748, and bi 95005941) and reducciones (items bi 94002845, bi 95002026, bi 94002883, and bi 93021804). One notes in much of this new work an attempt to understand conquest and the mission experience from the standpoint of the native peoples (items bi 95002047 and bi 95007480).

We note an increasing number of journal articles dealing with colonial Río de la Plata at the same time as there has been an abrupt decline in the number of published monographs dealing with the region. [SMS]

Go to the:

Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (09/01/03)