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Volume 60 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Chile

WILLIAM F. SATER, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University, Long Beach

INTEREST IN ALLENDE, his government, its overthrow, and the Pinochet years has revived. Some of the recent books are simply memoirs; others are apologies either for Allende or Pinochet; and most because of their narrow focus, are not worth reading. But a few authors, like Garretón Merino and Rojas Sánchez, provide useful chronologies (items #bi 00001445# and #bi 00001447#). Merino Castro is worthwhile because he explains the role of the navy, which he commanded, in the 1973 coup (item #bi 00001476#). Also of great interest is the Rettig report, which dispassionately provides the names of those who perished between 1973 and the late 1980s (item #bi 00001431#). Wright's study employs oral history to offer an objective accounting of the exiles (item #bi 00001471#). Gazmuri Riveros', Arancibia Clavel, and Góngora Escobedo magisterial two-volume biography of Frei provides a penetrating glimpse into the life and government of the Christian Democratic leader (item #bi2003002349#). All encompassing in vision and marvelous in detail, this is a superb work.

Military and naval history have made a comeback. In the best of the essays, the Hungarian, Ferenc Fisher, describes German attempts to supplant Britain as chief supplier for Chile's fleet (item #bi2003003850#). Bravo Valdivieso very ably analyzes the 1931 naval mutiny, its roots in the past, and its somewhat anticlimatic resolution (item #bi2003002347#). On the military side, Sater and Herwig indicate that Emile Körner's vaunted reforms provided at best ephemeral changes (see HLAS 58:2787), while Valdés Urrutia clarified some of the events surrounding what has become known as the "Pig's Feet Plot," a conspiracy that occurred during the second presidency of Carlos Ibáñez (item #bi2003003598#).

Economic history, as always, has been an area that has produced rich rewards. Worthy of special mention is Soto Cárdenas' masterful study of British involvement in the nitrate industry (item #bi 00001475#). Pozo's pioneering work has opened up a new area of investigation: the development of Chile's wine industry, which many of us know has produced rich results (item #bi 00001472#). The work on the Cristaleros, which focuses on the history of a single factory, provides an excellent vision of labor relations from the perspective of the shop floor (item #bi 00001458#). On the other side of the spectrum Mazzei de Grazia (item #bi 99000563#) and Lorenzo (item #bi2003003597#) explain the economic elites and their own conflicts. Pinto Vallejos' edited volume is essential for understanding the development of mining (item #bi 00001460#). His article (item #bi 98002244#), as well as those of Grez and Sanhueza (items #bi 99006627# and #bi 98002250#), demonstrate that Chilean workers supported a variety of political parties, sometimes not always those of the extreme left, to achieve their goals.

As in the US, the amount of material describing the roles of women has increased. Yeager has shown that nuns provided the example and encouragement for well-born Chilean women to become involved in secular contemporary issues (item #bi 99007138#). As Veneros Ruiz-Tagle demonstrates, securing the right to vote only provided a limited gain (item #bi 00001457#); women still had to confront more entrenched biases including, as Zárate Campos notes, health problems unique to women (item #bi 99010001#) before they could achieve meaningful advances.

Social history does not seem to have attracted as much interest this biennium. Thanks to Romero's splendid study, however, we know a great deal more about Chile's urban poor and the various attempts, generally futile, to improve their lot (item #bi 00001466#). Some historians have turned their attention from immigrants to the indigenous, exploring the relations between the Moneda and the Mapuche (item #bi 98009151#) as well as other aspects of indigenous life in Chilean society (item #bi 00001453#). Material has appeared dealing with the role of the Roman Catholic Church. As Sol Serrano demonstrated, however, the Moneda emerged triumphant in the Church-state struggle (item #bi 99003444#).

Studies on political topics have increased. The often denigrated and often overlooked political right attracted the attention of scholars. Etchepare offered a more extended view of the right's participation in Chile's political life (item #bi2003002348#). For a study of the left, Loyola and Rojas edited a series of extremely perceptive and objective essays on Chile's Communist Party, often explaining the relations between Santiago and Moscow (item #bi2003003853#). Couyoumdjian's examination of La Hora provides a rare opportunity to trace the impact of a newspaper on political life (item #bi 99000556#).

Diplomatic history also seems to be enjoying a revival. Fernández Váldes describes the often contentious relations between Santiago and Lima up to the War of the Pacific (item #bi 00001438#), while Rinke shows how Chile hoped to use its close post-World War I ties to Germany to offset US influence (item #bi 99000564#). It would be extremely valuable if Rinke followed up with a study focusing on the years after 1884, when Germany first gained an important foothold in Chile's economy and military. Fermandois Huerta (item #bi 99003531#) ably concentrates on Chile's relations with Washington immediately after World War II, noting that the Moneda did not profit from its decision to repress Chile's Communist Party.

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