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Volume 56 / Humanities


Independence, Revolution, and Post-Revolution

BARBARA A. TENENBAUM, Mexican Specialist, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress, Editor in Chief, Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture
DON M. COERVER, Professor of History, Texas Christian University
SUZANNE B. PASZTOR, Assistant Professor of History, University of the Pacific


SCHOLARLY WRITING ON MEXICAN HISTORY during the crucial years from 1810-1910 has reached a level of maturity unknown just a half decade ago. The steadily increasing professionalization of scholarship and the tremendous improvement in Mexican archives are beginning to pay extravagant dividends in the excellence of recent research.

Mexican historians retain a fascination with politics - particularly with border studies - that has long been on the wane, with conspicuous and noteworthy exceptions, in the US. The meritorious trend whereby researchers examine regional responses to national policy and politics, noted in volume 54, continues to flourish. Although much remains to be done, these investigations show the limited impact of national dictates on regional behavior, in some cases provoking revolt rather than submission. However, if Serrano Alvarez is to be believed, such analyses will not necessarily lead to generalizations about the nation as a whole (item bi 95004796). Indeed, perhaps we are approaching a much greater appreciation for the difficulties of centralizing Mexico, even in terms of its scholarship, than previously thought. Can a revisionism about Porfirio Díaz on this score be far behind?

This biennium saw far fewer works on women's history and microhistoria and an enormous increase in economic studies, particularly for works examining the development of credit. Both the period of independence, 1808-21, and that between 1856-67 still remain significantly understudied, apart from the hagiography cherished in previous epochs. Nevertheless, this biennium saw major contributions from Guedea for the former period (items bi 96012651 and bi 93018317) and Mallon for Puebla (item bi 94016770), which added to the works published previously by Cerutti on Monterey and the northeast (see HLAS 54:1330 and HLAS 54:1348). Fortunately, thanks to new work by Sordo Cedeño (item bi 96005711), complementing the pioneering efforts of Noriega Elío (see HLAS 50:1175), the previously inscrutable centralist years seem more comprehensible. Art history, particularly in books of photography, has become very popular and can provide extraordinary insights into the Mexican soul. Particularly intriguing is the group of portraits of dead children from Ameca, Jalisco (item bi 96000533), providing evidence that in their depiction of the rush toward modernity, scholars are neglecting the other-worldly aspect of Mexican cosmology. Promising studies also appeared on the army, prisons, public health in both mining and urban environments, agrarian legislation, sugar and rubber plantations, wheat production, environment, and travelers' accounts.

Judging from the books and articles reviewed this biennium, reflecting publishing trends prior to 1995, we can expect to see a lively resurgence in sophisticated cultural analyses as more and more historians look into the creation of Mexican nationality. These will be a welcome complement to the excellent in-depth economic studies fostered by Marichal, Ludlow, Liehr, Cerutti, Carmagnani, and Grosso, as well as by the cadres of students they have trained. [BAT]


SUB-NATIONAL HISTORY PERSISTS as a major attraction for researchers. Wasserman examines the general issue of the regional approach to modern Mexican history (item bi 90013822) as well as providing an excellent example of it in his post-1910 study of the Chihuahuan elite (item bi 95024263). Regional studies range geographically from Baja California (items bi 95005886 and bi 95008794) to Quintana Roo (item bi 97003478). Important state studies include Aguascalientes (item bi 95008775), Campeche (item bi 95008793), Guerrero (item bi 95008763), Michoacán (items bi 95014486 and bi 94011984), Nuevo León (item bi 93000227), Sonora (item bi 95008780), Tlaxcala (item bi 93000227), Veracruz (item bi 95008823), and Yucatán (items bi 95007053 and bi 95000518).

Agrarian studies continue as a major focus of research. Rivera Castro provides a collection of documents useful for understanding the general framework of agrarian reform (item bi 94011975). Although the emphasis continues to be on Cardenist policies, studies appeared that covered the pre-revolutionary period through the 1980s. Markiewicz provides a revisionist overview of the agrarian reform program from 1915-46, with an emphasis on the 1930s-40s (item bi 94012003). Cotter examines the technical side of 1920s-30s agriculture leading up to the Mexican Agricultural Project of 1943 (item bi 94006277), while Maldonado Aguirre connects the agrarian movement with the rise of the presidentialist State between 1920-34 (item bi 95008772). State-level studies of agrarian reform appeared for Chiapas (item bi 94011945), Sinaloa (item bi 95008819), Sonora (items bi 94003289 and bi 94012011), and Zacatecas (item bi 97003487).

Interest in labor history declined moderately, with no multi-volume works issued during this biennium. The interaction between the government and labor is addressed in works by Ramírez Cuellar (item bi 94011952), Roxborough (item bi 94002738), and Tirado Villegas (item bi 95008761). The transnational aspect of labor is examined in Gonzáles (item bi 95023701) and Guerin-Gonzáles (item bi 94011993). Fuentes Díaz focuses on the tension between the worker activism encouraged by anarchist thought and the conservative social activism of the Catholic Church (item bi 95008822).

Historians continue to be concerned with economic development and the role of the government in the economy. Haber discussed both the historiography of Mexico's transition to an industrial economy as well as the process itself (item bi 94008679). Cerda reassesses the Porfirian economy and identifies important structural problems leading to the Revolution (item bi 95023959), while Cárdenas discusses the growing role of the national government in the economy from 1927-58 (item bi 95008817). The changing situation in the maquiladora industry is examined by Wilson (item bi 97003505) and Williams and Passe-Smith (item bi 95024264).

One notable trend is the production of more works focusing on women. Using oral history, prosopography, and biography, several authors have contributed to the knowledge of women's activities during the Revolution. Lau and Ramos review existing scholarship on this topic and provide an excellent summary of documents (item bi 94012033). Las mujeres en la revolución mexicana is a narrative and pictographic history with biographical sketches of the Porfirian and revolutionary eras (item bi 94012018). With a brief summary of the service records of thirteen women contained in the Archivo de la Defensa Nacional, Monroy Pérez shows the varied roles of women during the Revolution (item bi 94003288); in Vivencias femeninas de la revolución (item bi 94123117), Basurto transcribes interviews with two sisters who were active in the Casa del Obrero Mundial. An extensive interview is the basis for Carolina Escudero Luján, a biography of Francisco J. Múgica's wife describing her experiences during the Revolution and detailing her political and social activities (item bi 95008774).

Four works that do not fit into the above categories also stand out. Britton provides an excellent survey and thought-provoking analysis of the images of the Revolution conveyed by US writers from 1910-60 (item bi 95007041). Brunk's article explores Zapata's relationship with urban intellectuals, and how that relationship influenced the gap between his regional rebellion and the national revolution (item bi 93005258). Camp furnishes a much needed examination of the development of the Mexican military (item bi 95023706). Finally, Knight contributes to the ongoing debate over the significance of the Cárdenas Administration (item bi 95024184). [DC and SP]

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