In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Argentina

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Construction of a State Knowledge Base
  • Militarization and Wars
  • Justice and Law
  • Agrarian and Rural History
  • Population and Immigration
  • Family and Gender
  • Religious Practices

Atlantic History Argentina
Claudia Contente
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0356


Argentina emerged as a nation-state in the latter half of the 19th century. However, both popular culture and the official history generally agree that Argentina’s origins lay in the break with Spain in 1810 or even earlier, during the colonial period. The Hispanic monarchy’s dominions in South America were governed by a viceroy based in Lima until the 18th century, when two new divisions were created: the viceroy of New Granada governed the northern half of the continent, and the viceroy of Río de la Plata governed the south. The latter, whose capital was Buenos Aires, included most of what would become Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru. The early-19th-century crisis of the Spanish monarchy created the conditions for the establishment of various nation-states in South America. The viceroyalty of Río de la Plata disintegrated into small power units, and a series of civil wars broke out. Paraguay would be the first independent entity to emerge (1811), followed by Bolivia (1824) and Uruguay (1828). The rest of the fourteen states-provinces of the old viceroyalty continued fighting until 1862, at which point the Argentine Republic was created. The period starting in 1862 is referred to in Argentine national historiography as the period of “national organization,” during which the state gave substance to its sovereignty and institutions. Since the colonial period, agriculture had been the principal productive sector. Toward the end of the 19th century, cattle and grains became the principal and essentially the only exports, and the engine of its growth. Some areas of the country, most especially the city of Buenos Aires and the areas under its influence, underwent rapid demographic and economic growth, which gave Buenos Aires, the country’s major port, a disproportionate role in the territory as a whole, making it the country’s critical center. In the late 19th century, state construction coincided with an important series of transformations, including the forcible incorporation of Patagonia and Gran Chaco, which until then had been under the control of indigenous peoples (“Desert Campaign,” 1878–1885), the takeoff of agricultural exports, infrastructure construction (ports, railways, etc.), rapid urbanization, and, especially, the massive arrival of immigrants, most of them from Europe, who would play an active role throughout this transformative process.

General Overviews

The first two decades of the 21st century have featured mostly works of synthesis published, aimed at a general audience and concerning specific time periods (Fradkin and Garavaglia 2009, Fradkin and Garavaglia 2011, Gelman 2010, Sabato 2012), along with the monumental Suriano 2000–2005, which addresses all of Argentina’s history. For a long-term global vision from a more economic perspective, see Míguez 2008, Hora 2010, and Rapoport 2004. Lobato and Suriano 2000 provides an efficient graphic synthesis of events.

  • Fradkin, Raúl, and Juan Carlos Garavaglia. La Argentina colonial. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo XXI Editores Argentina, 2009.

    A clear and concise account of Río de la Plata during the colonial period. The brief epilogue provides a sharp analysis of changes starting in May 1810 that eventually led to the end of colonial ties. It also questions the notion that these events can be termed “revolutionary.”

  • Fradkin, Raúl, and Juan Carlos Garavaglia, eds. Argentina: La construcción nacional. Vol. 2, 1830/1880. Colección América Latina en la Historia Contemporánea. Lima, Peru: Fundación Mapfre y Santillana Ediciones, 2011.

    A concise compilation aimed at a general audience, synthesizing political history, the international context, and economic, social, and cultural aspects of the period.

  • Gelman, Jorge, ed. Argentina. Vol. 1, 1808–1830, crisis imperial e independencia. América Latina en la Historia Contemporánea 1. Lima, Peru: Fundación Mapfre y Santillana Editores Generales, 2010.

    A nonscholarly work of synthesis aimed at a general audience. It provides new perspective on the essential aspects and events of a key period in Argentine history.

  • Hora, Roy. Historia económica de la Argentina en el siglo XIX. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo XXI Editores, 2010.

    A precise and synthetic account of the reorientation of the economy of the old viceroyalty toward the exterior, and the development of agriculture that would lead to Argentina’s incorporation into the world economy.

  • Lobato, Mirta Zaida, and Juan Suriano. Nueva historia Argentina: Atlas histórico de la Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Sudamericana, 2000.

    The historical evolution of Argentina through maps and brief explanations.

  • Míguez, Eduardo. Historia económica de la Argentina desde la Conquista a la crisis de 1930. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Sudamericana, 2008.

    Covers the period of greatest economic growth without relying on preconceived notions. A crucial work for understanding the present.

  • Rapoport, Mario. Historia económica, política y social de la Argentina, 1880–2000. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Macchi, 2004.

    An easy-to-read didactic work that is well documented, analyzing the formation and transformations of the market and the national state from social, economic, and financial perspectives, always taking into account the international context.

  • Sabato, Hilda. Historia de la Argentina, 1852–1890. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo XXI, 2012.

    An impeccable historical summary that emphasizes the political perspective but also pays proper attention to social and economic questions. This work focuses on the projects that molded the state and the ways in which political authority was legitimized.

  • Suriano, Juan, ed. Nueva historia Argentina. 10 vols. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Sudamericana, 2000–2005.

    A ten-volume work covering all of Argentine history from the arrival of native peoples and the first conquerors up through the early 21st century.

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