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Volume 56 / Humanities

HISTORY: MEXICO


General and Colonial Period

ASUNCION LAVRIN, Professor of History, Arizona State University at Tempe
EDITH B. COUTURIER, National Endowment for the Humanities


SINCE THE MID 1970s, when the Archivo General de la Nación, under the direction of Alejandra Moreno Toscano, began a systematic recovery of local and provincial archives, the publication of guides to collections or documentary sources has become increasingly important in Mexico. Thus, we can point to the significant number of such materials reviewed this biennium as the expression of a trend that has reached full maturity. It is also worth noting that the proceedings of several international and regional conferences on Mexican history have been published, allowing scholars to assess the new crop of revisionist works usually presented at these events (items bi 94013104, bi 94002098, and bi 94016786).

Regional history, a trend that began taking shape during the last decade, is now, with the arrival of the late 1990s, well-grounded in the field. In this volume, we note the predominance of studies on western Mexico, especially Jalisco and Michoacán, and also the appearance of Chiapas as a subject of local history, possibly a result of its current political notoriety (items bi 94012305, bi 95002560, bi 94013210, bi 93002184, bi 93002148, and bi 93014159). The strength of central Mexican historiography has not diminished, but it is now better matched by work on other regions. Complementary to this trend are the microstudies of several towns; one of the best reviewed here is Juan Carlos Garavaglia's monograph on Tepeaca (item bi 94001549).

Colonial historians are not exploring the multiple meanings of popular and elite religion to the extent that would be desirable to match similar developments in early modern European history. We do, however, have some serious works on the historical mystique of the Virgin of Guadalupe and her worship that may trigger more critical readings of religion as culture and as history (items bi 95025640 and bi 94015502). The study of Church credit is the other topic that seems to be gathering momentum, especially among economic historians. An international conference organized by Gisela von Wobeser and UNAM's Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas in 1994 will stimulate this subject and connect it with ongoing research on the 19th century. Two works are particularly deserving of mention; one is the first thorough study of 16th-century credit (not exclusively ecclesiastic) by Martínez (item bi 96007387) and the other is a synthesis of 18th-century credit by von Wobeser (item bi 95006637).

Some important contributions to social history were made this biennium. The heterodox nature of this branch of history foils any attempt at classification. Suffice it to say that an interdisciplinary methodology makes some of these works significant, while the strength of others derives from an astute use of the sources to extract information on people's daily lives, attitudes, and group mentality, as well as to determine the influence of State and religious policies on personal behavior. The studies by Alberro, Boyer, Calvo, Cope, González Muñoz, Pescador, Stern, and Patch shed light on the special dimensions of acculturation, gender and race relations; family structure, strategies, and networks; and the dialogue of power between elite and non-elite groups. Elinor Melville's work on sheep is an innovative venture into environmental history. We would also like to highlight the latest work by the indefatigable Woodrow W. Borah on price trends of royal tribute, a remarkable synthesis in the field of economic history (items bi 94004979 and bi 93004192), and the study by Richard Garner of economic growth in Bourbon Mexico (item bi 93008612).

Other topics that drew our attention were demographic surveys (item bi 93011687) and their connection with family formation (items bi 94012057 and bi 94009281) and the study of elite local groups (items bi 95016149), among which that of González Muñoz merits special mention (item bi 95016139). Also important are revisionist visitations to late-colonial institutions (items bi 94005294 and bi 95018139). The reissue of works by two notable historians, Silvio Zavala and Jean-Pierre Berth, pays due homage to their sustained labors in colonial historiography (items bi 95016152 and bi 93002152).

In 1995 Mexicans observed the tricentennial of the death of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; several conferences commemorated this event. Their proceedings will broaden the corpus of works on the poet and the culture of her century, as well as on female convent life (items bi 96001084 and bi 96010564).

For the northern regions, two significant works reviewed here concern the California missions and native populations; Crosby focuses on the 18th century (item bi 96001133) and Phillip on the 19th (item bi 93005249). Questions raised by the Quincentenary of the encounter continue to influence the most analytical research on the north, which explains, evaluates, and sometimes condemns the missionary enterprise (items bi 94002841, bi 95010207, bi 94008834, bi 94001306, bi 95002167, and bi 94015755). Research on the non-missionary populations would be welcomed in the future.

In order to better serve our readers, the colonial portion of this chapter had been reorganized into two subsections instead of the previous three. As of HLAS 56, colonial Mexican materials will be subdivided as follows: 1) General, Central, and South; and 2) North and Borderlands.

We acknowledge the assistance of José Maldonado, doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, in the review of materials for this section. Works reviewed by him are identified by his initials.


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