The Early History of Greater Mexico

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9780130915436: The Early History of Greater Mexico

Presented in an easy-to-follow chronological framework, this thorough and insightful survey offers a complete historical account of colonial Mexico from the period preceding European contact through the wars of independence in the early nineteenth century. Emphasizing regional diversity and development, it skillfully combines existing knowledge with the most recent scholarship in the field, guiding readers through Mexico's three centuries of colonial rule, and bringing history to life through the experiences of Mexico's indigenous peoples before, during and after the Spanish conquest. Considers the peoples and cultures who inhabited Mesoamerica before the arrival of Europeans; the Spanish conquest and subsequent c lashes and interactions among groups; the precocious economic and institutional development of the Kingdom of New Spain; the expansion of Hispanic society and culture from central Mexico into more remote areas; the growing complexity of society and economy over the centuries of Spanish rule. Presents intriguing recent trends in study, including the use of indigenous-produced documents and texts to study sociopolitical structures, language patterns, gender roles, economic activities and cultural change and continuity among Indian groups during the colonial period. For historians and general readers who wish to learn more of Mexico's early history and development.

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Along with better-known aspects of Mexican history. this comprehensive text introduces the reader to such important topics as the role of Africans in colonial Mexico, the nature of marriage and family, cultural change and continuity among Indian groups, and the causes and significance of disorder and rebellion, both before and during the Wars for Independence. Abundantly illustrated and featuring excerpts from primary sources, The Early History of Greater Mexico combines existing knowledge with the most recent scholarship in the field to provide a balanced introduction to the rich and diverse history of this important country.

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This volume is intended to serve as a basic text for courses in Mexican history, as well as others in which the history of Mexico plays an important parts The general reader wishing to learn more of Mexico's early history and development also may find this book to be a useful introduction and guide to the fascinating story of a country that shares a border and much history in common with the United States but in many senses remains little known or understood in this country.

Mexico's history is immensely rich and diverse, and writing it offers great challenges. Here we will consider the peoples and cultures who inhabited Mesoamerica before the arrival of Europeans; the Spanish conquest and subsequent clashes and interactions among groups as they all adjusted to a changed and changing context; the rapid economic and institutional development of the colony that the Spaniards called the Kingdom or Viceroyalty of New Spain; the expansion of Hispanic society and culture from central Mexico into remote areas of the north and south; and the growing complexity of society and economy over the centuries of Spanish rule. In this volume, we examine Mexico's early history by focusing on a series of topics treated within a chronological framework, dividing the colonial period into three periods that correspond roughly to the three centuries of colonial rule. This approach makes it possible to give due consideration not only to better-known events and aspects of that history—such as the Aztec empire and the Spanish conquest, or the establishment of the Roman Catholic church—but also to introduce the reader to important topics such as the role of Africans in colonial Mexico, the nature of marriage and family, the form and implications of interactions among different ethnic groups, and the causes and significance of disorder and rebellion, both before and during the wars for independence. We also have made an effort to take a balanced approach to regional diversity and development.

No single, relatively brief volume can claim to offer a comprehensive history of colonial Mexico. This text attempts to combine existing knowledge with the most recent scholarship in the field. Thus, we can only provide an introduction to ongoing research that is constantly modifying our understanding of colonial society. Some of the more recent trends in scholarship include the following: the use of indigenous texts to study sociopolitical structures, language patterns, gender roles, economic activities, and cultural change and continuity among Indian groups during the colonial period; the use of microhistorical analysis to understand complex socioeconomic and political processes; and a new effort to examine and integrate previously less studied groups—women, people of mixed racial and ethnic background—and relatively neglected regions (the far north and south) into the mainstream of Mexican history. At the same time, incorporation of recent scholarship should not mean the neglect of essential older works that by no means have been superseded. With respect to the rich historiography of colonial Mexico, we have endeavored to take a balanced approach as well.

The authors acknowledge a number of individuals who lave contributed their time, effort, and expertise to this book. Todd Armstrong, formerly of Prentice Hall, first suggested to us the idea of writing a textbook on colonial Mexican history; his successor at Prentice Hall, Charles Cavaliere, has been most helpful in seeing the project through to completion, as has Laura Lawrie. We wish to thank Pedro Santoni of California State University at San Bernardino, William C. Olson of Marist College, and John Sherman of Wright State University, who reviewed the original proposal. Patrick Grant of the University of Victoria and Michael Polushin of the University of Southern Mississippi read the entire manuscript and provided invaluable comments. William B. Taylor of the University of California at Berkeley and James Lockhart of the University of California at Los Angeles also were kind enough to read all or part of the manuscript on very short notice and to share with us their responses and suggestions.

We also wish to acknowledge the understanding and encouragement of our families, friends, and colleagues. As is often true for worthwhile projects, this one took longer and proved to be far more demanding of everyone's time and patience than anticipated.

Ida Altman
University of New Orleans

Sarah Cline
University of California, Santa Barbara

Juan Javier Pescador
Michigan State University

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