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Volume 62 / Humanities



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

The field of Chilean history experienced a bittersweet biennium. Lamentably, it witnessed the deaths of two of its more prominent members, Armand de Ramón and Simon Collier. On the positive side, the Universidad de los Andes, one of the new universities, began publishing Bicentenario: Revista de Historia de Chile y América, a superb journal dedicated to the history of the Americas.

As usual, there is a spate of new books about Allende, his overthrow, and the Pinochet years. Luis Corvalán Márquez' two articles describe first the political climate preceding the coup and then the subsequent years (items #bi2002000579# and #bi2001004157#). Many other historians are following suit: Luis Corvalán Márquez, the former Senator and head of the CP offers his interpretation (item #bi2004003302#) as does his polar opposite, Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, the jailed former head of the DINA (item #bi2005004801#). Verónica Valdivia claims that traditional populism may have motivated army officers to turn against Allende (item #bi2001004158#). An interesting study is Rolando Alvarez Vallejo's work on the Communist Party's post-1973 policies and its championing of armed resistance (item #bi2004003307#). Another resister, although not a violent one, was Andrés Aylwin Azócar, relative of the former president and leader of the anti-Pinochet group, whose memoirs describe his struggle for civil rights (item #bi2004003386#).

Those interested in economic history will find a solid assortment of material. César Ross traces the role of banks, noting that the government's tolerance of their printing of paper notes encouraged speculation (item #bi2004003304#). At the same time, the government accepted the coinage of fichas, money fabricated by nonfinancial institutions, a problem that plagued the nation until the 1940s (item #bi2004002346#). Augusto Millán's monograph on the mining of gold fills in some of the gaps in our knowledge of Chile's important economic sector (item #bi2002003562#). As John Mayo notes, the English did not gain control of the Norte Chico's mines although they did serve as quasi-factors (item #bi2001002478#). Mateo Martinic Beros traces the role of colonists in developing agriculture in mid-19th-century Magallanes (item #bi2001003498#). In a similar vein, Gloria Gallardo Fernandez' work focuses on a commune in the Norte Chico, describing the development of the area's landholding structure (item #bi2004003390#). In an aside, Carlos Donoso Rojas explains the creation and expansion, albeit limited, of Chile's telephone system (item #bi2001003495#).

Urban historians have contributed some very important works. Unlike other studies, Armando de Ramón's history of Santiago addresses the capital's environmental issues (item #bi2002000580#). Maria Urbina Carrasco's superb monograph on Valparaíso's conventillos, which provides encyclopedic treatment of this topic, is essential for social and urban historians (item #bi2004003392#). Gabriel Guarda's volume on Valdivia, while not a monograph, is nonetheless a gem, containing invaluable photos and data on the lives of those who settled the south (item #bi2004003310#).

Social historians have some new material to study. Marcos Fernández provides insights into the lives of those who made up the base of the social pyramid (item #bi2004003384#). René Millar Carvacho's work on the rise of Protestantism in Valparaíso deals with an oft-neglected topic: religious, particularly non-Catholic, history (item #bi2001003499#).

There is renewed interest in ethnic history of late. Jacob Cohen Ventura's work describes the growth of Temuco's Sephardic Jewish community, specifically, the ability of the newly arrived immigrants to assimilate with their coreligionists fleeing Hitler's Germany (item #bi2005004800#). Jorge Pinto Rodríguez has turned his attention to the traditionally neglected Mapuches as they struggled to regain their identity and lands (item #bi2004003308#). As Baldomero Estrada notes, Chile had difficulty attracting immigrants (item #bi2001000020#), although enough foreign merchants arrived to convert Valparaíso into Chile's principal economic center (item #bi2001003494#). Krebs, Tapia Guerrero, and Schmid Anwandter concentrate on the impact of the Germans in Chile (item #bi2003004969#). Víctor Farías' two monographs examine more controversial topics: the role of some Germans as they attempted to entice other Chileans first to the Nazi side and then to protect fleeing war criminals (item #bi2005004802#).

Sol Serrano and Ivan Jaksic continue to work on education, showing how Church and state believed that literacy would improve their status in society (item #bi2001003552#). In a related piece, Fredy Soto R.'s comprehensive study contains a great deal of statistical data on education (item #bi2002003564#). A similar topic is Nelson Vargas Catalán's history of pediatric medicine which explains the growth of this field while using a wealth of health statistics (item #bi2005004851#).

The Parliamentary Republic, as Enrique Fernández Darraz argues, did not consider care of the populace a high priority (item #bi2004003398#). Occasionally, as Rodrigo Hidalgo Dattwyler notes, the government and private charities did belatedly address the problem of inadequate housing (item #bi2002004992#), albeit too little and too late. The Alessandri government eventually created a cultural extension to accumulate data on working conditions (item #bi2001004159#). Not surprisingly, the failure to address some of the pressing social ills precipitated violent protests and strikes, as noted by Fernández et al. (item #bi2004003384#) and Grez Toso (item #bi2001006209#).

Two recent works address women's history. Larraín Mira's work demonstrates that females participated in the War of the Pacific: the gente decente worked in hospitals and through charities while the lower classes actually joined the men on the battlefield (item #bi2003004963#). Many of their upper class contemporaries subsequently formed study groups which, in conjunction with Catholic Action, mobilized conservative women (item #bi2003004976#).

Two historians discuss the army, its training, and its influence. Brahm García shows the impact of the German army on its Chilean counterpart (item #bi2005004752#) while retired Gen. Roberto Arancibia Clavel's splendid work traces the influence of the Chilean army on the armed forces of other Hispanic nations (item #bi2005004751#). The republication of Estanislao del Canto's memoirs, coupled with an excellent introductory essay, provide an excellent primary source for scholars of the War of the Pacific and the 1891 Revolution (item #bi2005004753#).

Political historians will find two worthy books. Guerrero Lira's excellent work on the independence period indicates that Spanish rule was not so abrasive (item #bi2004003301#). And Simon Collier's book (published posthumously) demonstrates his support for the thesis of Chilean exceptionalism and the political elites' increasing warm embrace of liberalism (item #bi2004003592#). Rafael Sagredo B.'s volume on Balmaceda's campaigns provides an interesting chronicle of the liberal president's deteriorating political situation (item #bi2003004972#). Marcus Klein attributes the failure of local Fascists to take the place of the MNS to the fact that the conservatives had already preempted the right wing (item #bi2002001580#). Víctor Farías' six-volume compilation of documents from the UP period is an incredible achievement, offering scholars a wealth of material (item #bi2005004858#). One of the first books on post-1990 politics has appeared: Muñoz Gomá and Stefoni's edited volume on Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, son of the more influential father (item #bi2005004850#). Certainly many more publications on the turn-of-the-century will appear in the future.

In general, the past few years have provided a rich harvest of material. More historians are writing about a great variety of topics. Most striking is the publication of the works of historians who received doctorates in Europe, the US, and Chile; their articles and books have greatly enhanced our understanding of the field of Chilean history.

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