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Volume 58 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay

JOEL HOROWITZ, Professor of History, Saint Bonaventure University
THOMAS WHIGHAM, Professor of History, University of Georgia


WHILE THE NUMBER OF SCHOLARLY PUBLICATIONS dedicated to 19th-century Argentine history fell slightly during the 1990s, the field has nonetheless moved in some new and exciting directions. Innovative studies in social and intellectual history have appeared, but the most impressive advances have occurred in political history, where young scholars have scouted territories that their seniors left untouched, or reconceptualized older dynamics. Provincial and regional histories, often based on documents drawn from little-known archives, have also made a strong showing this biennium.

The myriad efforts of Argentine elites to construct a modern nation out of a backward and isolated colony have provided material for several studies. Tulio Halperín Donghi's perceptive article on Deán Funes illustrates how the Hispanic past affected the revolutionary mind set in 1810 (item #bi 00003119#). José Carlos Chiaramonte argues a similar point in his thoughtful piece on the origins of the state in the Plata, although in this instance, he stresses how Spanish notions of sovereignty led to divisiveness in the aftermath of independence (item #bi 95023920#). The political uncertainty of the 1820s took the form of constant intrigue and fear, and soon demands for social order found a broad expression throughout the region, as suggested in Carlos S. Segreti's study of Argentine monarchists (item #bi 96005047#).

Caudillismo, not monarchy, was the result. In this context, historians have often portrayed the Rosas regime (1829-52) in stark black and white terms, with little depth or subtlety in their analyses. Jorge Myers' brilliant examination of Rosista political rhetoric, however, presents a far more incisive appraisal of the Restaurador, his supporters, and his detractors (item #bi 96005055#). The men who counted themselves in the latter group have received thorough, almost encyclopedic, treatment from William Katra (item #bi 96007223#), Tulio Halperín Donghi (item #bi 96005023#) and, more parenthetically, Alberto Rodolfo Lettieri (item #bi 97008748#). Donald S. Castro, in focusing on the solutions these modernizers proposed, provides a welcome summary of the politics of Argentine immigration (item #bi 96005039#).

The 19th-century economy, always a major feature in Argentine historiography, is here represented with several useful publications. Carlos Marichal's look at fiscal policy (item #bi 00003133#) works well in conjunction with Lyman L. Johnson's insightful piece on the distribution of wealth (item #bi 00003113#). The same could be said for Marcela Ferrari's extensively researched article on banking (item #bi 95023890#), and María Alejandra Irigoin's study of finances (item #bi 95023902#). Thomas Whigham has written extensively on provincial trade (item #bi 00003117#).

Argentine military history has not grown significantly, but two works of note have been produced: Julio Mario Luqui Lagleyze on the royalist forces during the independence wars (item #bi 96005063#), and Miguel Angel de Marco on the 1864-70 Paraguayan War (item #bi 96005056#).

Argentine biography, which in previous years has centered narrowly on San Martín, Rosas, Sarmiento, and various provincial caudillos, has now followed the lead of Nicholas Shumway and others and has branched out to include key intellectual figures. Alberto A. Rivera's article on Martin de Moussy, the French geographer of the Misiones, marks him as a rising scholar in the field (item #bi 00003109#). For her part, Josefa Emilia Sabor's account of Pedro de Angelis, the Italian bibliophile who became a valued publicist for Rosas, is a tour de force describing an important though understudied figure and his times (item #bi 96009681#). [TW]

The writing on the history of Argentina since the 1880s continues to be extremely impressive both in quality and quantity. Almost all of it is done by Argentines and a significant percentage is well researched and raises interesting questions. A problem for historians wishing to consult this body of work is that much appears in journals or in collective books of articles with limited circulation. This is not a new problem and one for which there is no ready solution. Equally disturbing is a growing trend among large commercial publishing houses. These presses are increasingly printing histories, particularly biographies, intended for popular audiences, without any indication of sources. While it is reassuring that there is still a market for history and some of these works are well done, their value for historians is severely limited by the inability to divine the sources of any findings.

Some of these biographies and histories were clearly written with the goal of helping to revive older political traditions. Fraga has continued his attempts to revalidate conservative politics with his biography of Julio A. Roca (item #bi 97016343#), whom he calls the most important conservative politician of the first half of the 20th century. While less clearly attempts to revive a political tradition, there have been published popular biographies of three key members of the Socialist Party, Alicia Moreau de Justo, Alfredo Palacios, and Nicolás Repetto (items #bi 97016338#, #bi 97016398#, and #bi 97016365#, respectively). Two of the works were published by writers who had been active in Socialist politics.

There also has been a steady outflow of works on the 1960s and 1970s, much of it memoirs or histories which are at least partly based on personal experiences. The quality, as is to be expected, varies widely but provides increasingly large amounts of documentation for future studies. In addition, there have been a number of scholarly works. Gordillo has given us an important study of the creation in the 1960s of a culture of resistance and confrontation among Córdoba's working class (item #bi 00003401#). Moyano and Pozzi have done important studies of guerrilla experiences (items #bi 97003782# and #bi 97004931#). There continues to be a need for more scholarly examination of how and why Argentina fell into the abyss. Perhaps it is still too soon for most to be willing to confront that unpleasant past.

An important trend that has become even more prominent in the last biennium is the growing attention on areas away from the city of Buenos Aires. This salutary refocusing of attention partially just reflects the reality of the country, but it also reflects the dramatic improvements in some of the interior universities. These universities sometimes have published the works that their students and professors have produced.

We now have many areas of historiographical strength away from the capital. Many of the fine studies of rural economic conditions have focused on the southeastern region of Buenos Aires province because of the work being done at the Univ. Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires in Tandil. With the publication of Gordillo's book on working class culture in Córdoba in the 1960s and the earlier work by James Brennan (HLAS 56:2979), we now know more about the working-class and unions in Córdoba in the 1960s than we do about other regions of the country. Gordillo and Brennan provide exemplary models for the type of studies that need to be done elsewhere.

An emerging and welcome trend is what can be labeled the new political history. The authors attempt to study how politics actually functioned, how votes and political support were mobilized. Politics becomes more closely tied to other aspects of life. Alonso (items #bi 95015030# and #bi 97002939#) and Sabato (items #bi 96006667# and #bi 96024014#) have continued to expand their pioneering work on elections in the city of Buenos Aires before the electoral reform law of 1912. While the two authors are not in complete agreement, it is now obvious that past generalizations about such elections are no longer viable. Excellent examples that combine political history and social history with attention focused on civic associations can be found in the works of Gutiérrez and Romero (item #bi 97016395#) and of Privitellio (item #bi 96010780#). Studies based away from the capital can be found in Los caminos de la democracia (item #bi 97016396#).

In a somewhat more traditional vein, there have been intensive studies of political parties in the interior. Vidal has done a close study of the Radical Party in Córdoba from 1912-30, examining the impact of internal problems and why they occurred (item #bi 97003804#). Lacoste has looked at both the Radical (item #bi 97003780#) and the Socialist (item #bi 97016377#) Parties in Mendoza. In addition, Potash has written a worthy successor to his previous books on the army, this time covering the period from 1962-73 (item #bi 00003403#). Caterina has given us an examination of the Liga Patriótica based on a wide use of primary sources (item #bi 97016402#).

Probably the most influential and important sector of Argentine society that traditionally has been ignored by most serious scholars is the Roman Catholic Church. Fortunately this has ended. Zanatta has explored the growing role of the Church in the 1930s, especially its relationship with the army (item #bi 00003403#). Caimari has studied the Church's relationship with the Perón regime and, with a well-researched effort, has been able to revise many of the traditional views (item #bi 00003400#). Burdick provides us with extensive information on the Movement of Priests for the Third World (item #bi 97016350#).

There continues to be a sizeable outflow of works on immigrants and the communities they created, though the number of publications seems to have decreased somewhat from recent years. The emphasis of these works continues to diversify. Bjerg (item #bi 97002402#) and Cibotti (item #bi 96010785#) deal with how different nationalities—Danes and Italians—developed and maintained a sense of identity. Jozami, meanwhile, studies the number of Muslims that were present in Argentina (item #bi 96024441#). Klich writes on different aspects of immigration to Argentina in the post-World War II era (items #bi 96024439#, #bi 96008267#, and #bi 97009940#).

Studies of the rural economy of Buenos Aires province, especially the southeastern sector, continue to appear in considerable numbers. They are slowly altering our vision of the nature of the rural economy. The relationships between estancieros and tenants were more complex than previously thought. Important work is also being done on other provinces, both in the humid pampas and beyond, although in much less quantity. For example, Paz has examined the evolution of landholding among the indigenous peasantry of the puna of Jujuy between 1875 and 1910 (item #bi 96006790#), while Maluendres has given us an overview of wheat farming in its first decades in La Pampa (item #bi 97006842#). A hint of a crucial avenue for future studies is Stoffel's short book on the Grandes Almacenes Ripamonti which sold a wide variety of goods to the population of rural Santa Fe (item #bi 97016199#). While more suggestive than definitive, it indicates that it is possible to study merchants who provided credit and goods to the countryside.

The greatest departure from HLAS 56 is a burst of publication on historiography. It is impossible to say why this occurred but it may reflect both a sense of how far the profession has come since the end of the last military dictatorship and a realization that it is time to take stock of the profession's past before pushing on. While not strictly historiographical, Pensar la Argentina, perhaps the most interesting of these works, is a series of eight interviews with scholars who write about Argentina's past (half are not, disciplinarily speaking, historians) (item #bi 97016400#). There are two overviews of the writing of Argentine history by groups of historians. La Junta de Historia is a commemorative volume on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Academia Nacional de la Historia and covers the period until 1938 (item #bi 97003740#); the other, La historiografía argentina, has an emphasis on the renovation of the profession in the 1960s (item #bi 97016341#). The interest in this supposedly golden era of the writing of history (though it is clearly inferior to today's production) is also reflected in two articles on the influence of the French Annales school on the writing of history in Argentina (items #bi 95023914# and #bi 97006978#). A key participant in that epoch, Tulio Halperín Donghi, has had reprinted a series of historiographical essays composed over many decades (item #bi 00003407#). Several works also examine different aspects of the historical production. A fine example is Lobato and Suriano's examination of writing about the working class (item #bi 97008460#).

The level of the writing on the period since 1880 continues to be extremely high. The range of topics is wide, though lacunae exist. The first peronist era, 1946-55, tends to be under-represented. Probably due to the current state of the Argentine publishing industry, there has been a serious lack of monographs that could pull together the many fine shorter studies that have been appearing and create new paradigms. Despite these problems, one can safely say that the quality of the historiograpical production is higher than it has ever been and shows no signs of flagging. [JH]


The 1989 collapse of the Stroessner dictatorship ushered in an unprecedented period of political change and self-reflection in Paraguay. While this has resulted in a plethora of books dedicated to national politics, it has not brought a concomitant expansion in new historical works, and there seem to be relatively few on the horizon. Nonetheless, thanks in part to the efforts of European and North American historians, the 1990s witnessed the appearance of several benchmark studies of 19th-century Paraguay.

In social history a major step forward has been made with the publication in German of Barbara Potthast-Jutkeit's monumental study of women and the family from the time of Dr. Francia through the 1870s (item #bi 00003127#). The book argues forcefully that patterns of illegitimacy in Paraguay long predate the Paraguayan War. Another German-language publication of interest is Heinz Joachim Domnick's careful consideration of German responses to that war (item #bi 98010963#).

One study that addresses the 1864-70 conflict is Augusto Ocampos Caballero's helpful account of Solano López in Spain (and subsequent Spanish-Paraguayan relations) (item #bi 96005075#).

In economic history, Thomas Whigham's article on Paraguayan cotton promotion provides a new backdrop to understanding Paraguay's place in world trade in the mid-19th century (item #bi 95015116#). His major study on regional trade, which centers on the export of yerba mate, tobacco, hides, and timber from the time of the viceroyalty until 1870, suggests a different approach to economic questions by placing Paraguay in its greater regional context and offering broad comparisons with northeastern Argentina (item #bi 00003110#). [TW]


Unlike Argentina and Paraguay, where 19th-century historical publication has been limited but impressive, in Uruguay, it is barely holding its own, with only three monographs and a handful of articles worthy of mention during this biennium.

Two of the three book-length studies are biographies. Alfonso Fernández Cabrelli has produced a third volume on José Gervasio Artigas that manages to avoid the usual hagiographical overtones (item #bi 96005081#). Of somewhat lesser stature, though still worth reading, is Aristides I. Madere Larrosa's account of Blanco leader Manuel Oribe (item #bi 96005068#). Carlos Zubillaga has contributed the last of the three outstanding monographs, in this case, a brief but solid examination of Spanish immigration to Uruguay in the 1800s (item #bi 96005069#).

In addition to the above studies, special attention should also be paid to two minor works on Uruguayan political history: Ana Frega's interesting article on state formation in the Plata (item #bi 95012928#), and Fernando López Alves' competent piece on the origins of liberalism in Uruguay (item #bi 00003134#). Finally, Juan Manuel Casal's essay on the early Urugayan army (item #bi 95019332#) offers fresh ways of looking at the institution. [TW]

While the historical production on the 20th century is also meager in quantity, the quality tends to be very high. Unlike Argentina, almost all the noteworthy offerings are published in books, several of which are quite innovative. Caetano and Rilla have written a history of modern Uruguay combining text with documents, and short biographies (item #bi 97003769#). Chasteen has given us a study of the caudillos Aparacio and Gumercindo Saravia which tells us a great deal about life in the border area between Uruguay and Rio Grande do Sul and also about the role of a caudillo (item #bi 00003139#). Well written, the book alternates between descriptions of specific events and discussions of larger topics. [JH]

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