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Volume 56 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Venezuela

PETER LINDER, Assistant Professor of History, New Mexico Highlands University
INES QUINTERO, Instituto de Estudios Hispanoamericanos, Universidad de Venezuela

ADVANCES IN VENEZUELAN HISTORIOGRAPHY noted in vols. 52 and 54 of the Handbook have continued this biennium. Twentieth-century politics remains the focus of most works reviewed; however, a substantial number of useful studies have emerged in other areas, in particular in economic, social, and intellectual history.

Recent economic and social histories often stress the role played by the State and public policy. Salazar-Carrillo takes a critical look at government petroleum and investment policy since 1958 to explain current economic woes (item bi 96012664). Yarrington examines expanding State power and intrusiveness in land privatization and rural proletarianization in a particular region of western Venezuela (item bi 94006231). Encontrela and Saneugenios focus on the role of public funding priorities in determining access to higher education (and the quality of that education) in the 20th century (item bi 94015262). Also notable is González Deluca's study of Caracas merchants, which provides insights into Venezuelan society, based on research on the activites of one of its more significant social groups (item bi 96012759).

A number of economic histories also challenge prevailing views of foreign capital's role in Venezuela's economy. Harwich Vallenilla provides a new perspective on the role of foreign concerns in a case study of the New York & Bermúdez Company (item bi 94012496). The same author has also edited a two-volume collection of case studies that demonstrate the limits of foreign capital's influence before the oil boom of the 1920s (items bi 94012441 and bi 95018800).

In labor history, institutional studies remain the rule, although the quality of those works has improved greatly. In his study of the labor movement since 1958, Ellner concludes that the State's ability to control the demands of organized labor has frequently been exaggerated, and will be lessened in the future (item bi 94012447).

A number of significant works in 19th-century intellectual history have appeared. Arratia (item bi 95008550) and Pino Iturrieta (item bi 94012487) have studied the role of elite intellectuals in the political and social conflicts of the early republic. Pino Iturrieta has also produced a study of prevalent ideas and concepts about women's roles in 19th-century society (item bi 95018801). In the introduction to an edited volume of the writings of Rómulo Betancourt, Sosa Abascal critically analyzes the economic and political ideas of one of the founders of modern Venezuela (item bi 96012712).

Some striking changes in political history also deserve mention. One is a growing interest in the politics of the 19th century. For example, Urdaneta Quintero examines the impact of conflicts with the central government in shaping a distinct regional consciousness among the political and economic elite of Maracaibo after independence (item bi 94012435).

A number of works reflect recent political crises and scandals. Historians are beginning to reevaluate the advent of democracy and, in particular, the roles of Venezuela's leading political parties. Valero investigates the role of foreign governments in the rise and fall of the first Acción Democrática government (item bi 94012473). Recent studies also demonstrate a new concern with regional political differences. For example, Angulo Rivas investigates the origins of COPEI as a Catholic political organization profoundly shaped by the Andean region in which it first appeared (item bi 95018803).

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