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Volume 62 / Humanities


Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay

Diego Armus, Associate Professor of History, Swarthmore College
Joan Supplee, Associate Professor of History, Baylor University
Thomas Whigham, Professor of History, University of Georgia


WHILE STILL MOVING IN PROVOCATIVE DIRECTIONS, the scholarship on Argentine history before 1880 has of late rediscovered some of its traditional strengths. In the field of biography, for example, what had been a landscape characterized by dry narrative accounts of political figures and by near-hagiographical treatments of Rosas and San Martín, has lately produced several works of surprising depth. Carlos Páez de la Torre's study of Nicolás Avellaneda (item #bi2002000623#) is an excellent contribution to this happy trend, as is Carlos S.A. Segreti's work on Bernardino Rivadavia (item #bi2002000633#). Pedro Navarro Floria's analyses of Sarmiento's attitude toward the Patagonian Indians (items #bi2002005294# and #bi2002006965#), while only parenthetically biographical, do offer some intriguing insights into the thinking of the great author of Facundo, and put some historical flesh on his "civilization versus barbarism" thesis.

Studies of rural society and politics have always constituted a particular strength in Argentina with Jorge Gelman's works (item #bi2003002105# and #bi2003000405#) leading the way during this biennium. Other studies of note include Fradkin's examination of rural banditry in the 1820s (item #bi2003000406#), Parolo's look at ranching in Tucumán (item #bi2001002079#), Garavaglia's always-readable speculations on labor relations in the campo (item #bi2003000404#), and Ricardo Salvatore's thoughtful work on crime in the Buenos Aires countryside (item #bi2001003781#).

The urban setting has also received some interesting treatment over the last few years. In this context, three works that deserve special mention are Angel O. Prignano's look at early sewage systems in Buenos Aires (item #bi2002001568#), Daniel Omar de Lucía's investigation of carnival celebrations in the same capital city (item #bi 00006508#), and most strikingly, Andrés Carretero's detailed examination of daily life in the port (item #bi2001004940#).

Argentine historiography perhaps leads the rest of Latin America in its production of solid works on nationalism, nation-building, and early political practices. Hilda Sábato blazed this particular trail some years ago and together with Alberto Rodolfo Lettieri has here written some of the best work on early electioneering (item #bi2003005652#). Lettieri alone has written an excellent account of politics in the liberal period (1852–1880) (item #bi2002000636#). And Oreste Carlos Cansanello's essay on the evolution of Argentine citizenship (item #bi2003005651#) deserves considerable attention as well.

Aside from these studies on more traditional topics, several less-developed areas have also received attention. Included here are works on arbortion and infanticide (item #bi2001003784#); sodomy laws (item #bi2002005114#); and and the historiography of caudillismo (item #bi2001005292#). Finally, Roberto Madera has written an exceptionally fine analysis of the crucial debate between Vicente Fidel López and Bartolomé Mitre on how the history of the nation should be written. [TW]

The quality and quantity of scholarly articles devoted to Argentine history in the period after 1880 has increased since the year 2000. Argentine historians have not only augmented their production, but also more or less formal groups of historians have published multivolume collected works that offer comprehensive narratives of the Argentine past. The Academia Nacional de la Historia has updated its Historia de la Nacion Argentina (item #bi2002003776#). This version offers entries from newer members who move beyond traditional approaches in the areas of social, cultural, and economic history, but the majority of contributions adhere to traditional historiography and methods. Moving away from this approach, the Nueva Historia Argentina (see HLAS 60:2952-2955) crafted by historians affiliated with Argentine research centers and universities or academic institutions in the US or Europe, explores old and new themes based on solid empirical research and innovative approaches. The collection is organized around standard political periodization. Some essays included in these volumes are original contributions while others are summaries of previously published works that this collection makes available to a larger audience. Among the most innovative topics covered are daily life in the belle époque, journalism in the 1920s and 1930s, the politics of health and disease, democratization of welfare, the creation of barrio identity in Buenos Aires, and the relationship between rural and urban spaces. A multivolume collection directed by Tulio Halperín Donghi, Biblioteca del pensamiento argentino (items #bi2005004373# and #bi2006002792#; also see HLAS 60:3049), provides a broad view of intellectual history and the history of ideas from the mid-19th century to the present. In each volume, well-crafted introductory essays contextualize a selection of the epoch's texts. A fourth collection, Historia Argentina, offers thematic volumes that cover the colonial period to the contemporary era. Each volume contains comprehensive and critical bibliographic essays. This thematic approach is also found increasingly in individual studies of topics as varied as: food and food ways, private and quotidian life, theater, political economy, and the idea of social progress in the 20th century (items #bi2006002793#, #bi2006002794#, #bi2006002788#, #bi2002003731#, and #bi2006002796#). And finally, very general and simplified narratives of the Argentine trajectory have captured the attention of a broad public with Manchiean readings of the past as a series of inevitable antecedents of the present and, most importantly, as sweeping explanations of the 2001 Argentine political and economic crisis (item #bi2006002791#).

Buenos Aires and the state, as subjects, continued to occupy a significant place in the historical writing in this quadrennial, but there has been a notable strengthening in the offerings with regional/provincial focus. These works move beyond mere local history to studies that recognize national themes in a provincial or regional context. In the field of regional histories, the province of Córdoba has produced the most work although the studies done at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán deserve special mention for their exploration of local issues that help reframe national themes (items #bi2002004333#, #bi2002005958#, and #bi2002005957#). One of the topics engaged recently by regional historians is the process of industrial development in the provinces, particularly in Córdoba, Tucumán and Mendoza (items #bi2002003680#, #bi2002001438#, #bi2006000414#, #bi2001003562#, and #bi2002005230#). All of these help enrich and expand our understanding of the Argentine economy during the belle époque.

Another ongoing theme developed by provincial historians concerns the struggle for power between the provincial and national governments in the period after 1880. Topics explored by these studies range from the struggle over provincial status (item #bi2002003665#), local labor conflicts in which unions appealed to the national government for remedy (item #bi2002004935#), the struggle of elites in Corrientes to give themselves prominence in the national story (item #bi2001005299#), the impact of national labor law in Santa Fe (items #bi2003000846# and #bi2003000847#), and the result of national education legislation on Tucumán's education system (items #bi2002004333#, #bi2002005958#, and #bi2002005957#). These studies highlight the uneven and contentious process of state building in Argentina.

Argentine economic history has always been a well-published field and this quadrennial's offerings continue that trend. Aside from the studies noted in the previous provincial history section, new work has reexamined the foundations of credit and banking in the early 20th century and has challenged the conventional wisdom concerning Argentina's dependency on foreign capital markets and lack of foresight in managing national finances (items #bi2001007620# and #bi2001003296#). Other themes pursued include the economic development of the interior during the long 19th century (item #bi2002003687#), the impact of economic liberalism under the Proceso government as a repressive force on the Argentine working class (item #bi2002003784#), and the relationship between revenue sharing and democratization (item #bi2002001590#). By taking on these themes, Argentine historians continued to push at the boundaries between historical events and economic factors.

Labor history also merits special mention in this volume. Those studies that treat the period before 1930 have moved from simple examinations of organized labor, to build more nuanced analyses of strikes, ideological conflicts, and standards of living at the municipal, provincial, and national levels. Of particular note are the influence of the Communist Party on labor (item #bi2002005280#), the impact of industrialization on print workers (item #bi2002002878#), the evolution of the workers' diets from 1880–1920 (item #bi2002005281#), how a water conflict in Santiago del Estero helped organize and empower rural workers (item #bi2002000645#), and the effect of industrialization on child labor in Buenos Aires and Córdoba in the early 20th century (item #bi2002001414#). Finally, historians have expanded the range of labor history by moving into an examination of labor's role during the dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s (items #bi2002005278# and #bi2002005279#). These refinements in recent labor studies have allowed us to measure the impact of labor organization and work regimes on individuals.

Political history continued to capture the interest of Argentine historians during this period. More of that history is incorporating the use of personal testimonies (item #bi2001007619#). Studies of the Peronist movement as it developed up to Perón's exile (item #bi2002003782#) and during his exile are rich with personal testimonies (item #bi2002003591#). Another direction taken is a reexamination of traditional political events, such as the 1912 electoral reform, but looking at the reform's results on the composition of the federal bureaucracy (item #bi2002004931#), or the reform's effect on opposition parties' struggle to govern (item #bi2002003688#). The movement in this field is away from macro studies of political parties and movements to measuring the micro forces that constitute larger political trends.

With uneven levels of originality, the subfield of social history continues to expand in size and depth. Some of the topics are noteworthy, either because they reflect new areas of study or because they are discussed in innovative ways. These studies focus on the impact of elite ideology on urban planning (item #bi2006000405#), the relationship between civic culture development and prostitution (item #bi2002003788#), housing trends (item #bi2003005461#), sports (items #bi2006002797# and #bi2006002798#), elite consumption of art (item #bi2006003315#), health, disease, and the sick (item #bi2001006933#), criminology (item #bi2001005224# and #bi2006003317#), the decade of the sixties (item #bi2006002795#), and material culture (item #bi2002003699#). There is also a robust production of immigration studies that focus on wider trends, including the study of the Italian diaspora (item #bi2001003579#), and other studies of specific communities throughout Argentina. More of the newer studies are moving away from simple description, personal testimonies, and photographs and applying more rigorous analysis to the immigrant experience. For example, studies in this volume of HLAS have examined family strategies of French immigrants to retain control of land over generations (item #bi2001002902#), analyzed immigrant residence patterns in Mar del Plata to conclude that immigrant family relationships were spatial as well as social (item #bi2002001418#), or, by studying one community, created a typology of immigrant organizations that could transcend local and national boundaries (item #bi2002001403#). All of these works evince the shift in Argentine social history toward cultural and popular themes.

To a certain extent media studies, including newspapers, magazines, and visual materials, are a novelty of these years. Several of these works examine a particular medium as it relates to a specific political movement or views the transformation of the medium into a political actor (items #bi2006002799#, #bi2002001597#, #bi2002003582#, and #bi2002001592#).

In the field of biography, most works have centered on those who would be considered "fathers of the country," to contemporary presidents, to guerrilla leaders. These narratives tended to be more popular accounts paeans to particular political leaders rather than contextualized and critical accounts of these individuals in their times (items #bi2006002787#, #bi2002003664#, #bi2003005514#, and #bi2003005489#).

And finally, in this quadrennial, Argentine historians have moved into the recent past, taking on topics that deal with the military dictatorships or the conflict in the south Atlantic. In some cases, those studies still lack analytical distance from the events and, in others, they represent personal testimonies of actions or events—many times by guerrilla groups—that unfolded in the decades of the 1970s and 1980s (items #bi2002003739# #bi2003005517#, #bi2003005500#, #bi2006002787#, #bi2002003591#, #bi2002003733#, and #bi2002003676#). There are some works that have started to transcend these limitations by employing a profound and critical approach to the events, taking into account the complex relationships among individual testimonies, collective memory, and national history (items #bi2006002785#, #bi2002003784#, #bi2002004929#, #bi2003005519#, and #bi2006003316#). [DA and JS]


The historiography of the early 19th-century Paraguay appears to be going through a dry spell recently, with relatively few studies that present any novelty. Nidia Arece's account of yerba workers in the Concepción area (item #bi2002004906#) is a pleasant exception that treats its topic in a focused and sympathetic way. Guido Rodríguez Alcalá's compilation of letters between Asunción's Junta Gubernativa and the Oriental leader José Gervasio Artigas in the 1810s is quite useful (item #bi2004002680#), but students of Artigas will doubtlessly be more intrigued by Nelson Caula's unusual examination of the great chieftain's love life in Paraguay (item #bi2002000628#). The one truly superb work to appear on Paraguay in the last two years is Francisco Doratioto's Maldita Guerra (item #bi2003002747#), which provides a nuanced and thorough account of the 1864–70 Triple Alliance War and its diplomacy. [TW]

This biennium has provided few works that have moved beyond popular or traditional Paraguayan history. For the period after 1880, one new field that historians pursued concerned the impact of 19th-century state policies on distribution of land on the frontier (item #bi2001006236#). In political history, studies have examined the rise of the modern party structure (item #bi2002003759#), documented the fortunes of the Communist Party (item #bi2002003750#), and discussed the links between Carlos Menem and Lino Oviedo (item #bi2002003786#). [JS]


While relatively little of note has appeared on 19th-century Paraguay, the historiography of Uruguay for the 1800s has seen some impressive growth. The December 2000 issue of Prisma includes a series of articles on the great Catholic historian Francisco Bauzá (those of Ana Ribeiro (item #bi2001005280#) and Carlos Pareja (item #bi2001005285#) being the best. Edmundo Narancio's nationalist account of Uruguay's independence (item #bi2003002745#) has been reissued, and so has Aureliano Berro's classic biography of his grandfather Bernardo, who was president during the 1860s (item #bi2002000609#). Fernando Schulkin, for his part, has produced a well-written illustrated account of the 1864–65 siege of Paysandú (item #bi2004002681#), a landmark event in the history of the Blanco Party. But perhaps the most exciting contribution over the last biennium has been Carolina González Laurino's Construcción de la identidad nacional (item #bi2002002691#), which examines the efforts by intellectuals in the 1870s and 80s to create a narrowly defined Uruguayan national identity. [TW]

Uruguayan historiography continues to focus its attention on the important first third of the 20th century, exploring the intense process of social and cultural integration of its population. (items #bi2006003318# and #bi2002003703#). Migration processes—in terms of people moving in and, during the second half of the 20th century, moving out of the county—were also discussed. These studies focused attention on the problems of leadership, ethnic organizations and the destinations of the Uruguayan diaspora (items #bi2002001428#, #bi2002005316#, #bi2003005505#, and #bi2001003584#). Historians also moved into an examination of recent history particularly focusing on the role of the urban guerrilla movement that combined ideological accounts with oral history (item #bi2003005521#). [DA]

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