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

  • Introduction
  • Overviews and Longue-Durée Perspectives
  • Colonial Period (1580–1810): Traditional Studies
  • Colonial Period (1580–1810): New Outlooks
  • Revolution and Independence (1810–1860): Traditional Studies
  • Revolution and Independence (1810–1860): New Political History
  • Revolution and Independence (1810–1860): New Studies on Culture and Society
  • Modernization (1860–1904): Political and Economic Perspectives
  • Modernization (1860–1904): Culture and Society
  • Reforms during the Era of Batllismo (1904–1930): Classic Studies
  • New Perspectives on Batllismo (1904–1930)
  • From Conservative Reaction to Neo-Batllismo (1930–1958): Politics
  • The Economy, Culture, and Society in the Mid-Twentieth Century (1930–1958)
  • The Politics of the 1960s Crisis (1958–1973)
  • The Rise of Authoritarian Governments and Social Protests (1958–1973)
  • The Culture and Society of the 1960s
  • Military Dictatorship (1973–1984)
  • Transition to Democracy and the Post-Dictatorship Years, 1980–2004
  • The Progressive Era, or the Pink Tide (2005–2020)

Latin American Studies Uruguay
Alex Borucki, Nicolás Duffau
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 February 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0192


Uruguayans living in the country and abroad have written most of the books listed here. Thus, most of these works are written in Spanish. Current Uruguayan historiography concentrates on four periods: (i) Independence with a focus on José Artigas and the regional anti-colonial fight that involved the former Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, (ii) the early-20th-century “Batllista” movement that shaped modern Uruguay with its radical reforms, (iii) the crisis (1960s) and dictatorship (1973–1985), including the post-1985 legacies, and (iv) the progressive Frente Amplio’s government (2005–2020), which has drawn regional and international attention to the study of the country’s past. The history of Uruguay before 1904 may be divided into three broad subperiods: the colonial era (1580–1810), revolution and independence (1810–1860), and modernization (1860–1904). While this chronology does not correspond strictly to how Uruguayan historians divide pre-1904 Uruguayan history, the post-1904 periodization presented here matches the perspectives of Uruguayan scholarship. The division in 1904 marks the end of the 19th-century civil wars and the beginning of modern Uruguay under the political, economic, social, and cultural reforms encouraged by the presidencies of José Batlle y Ordóñez. The 1904 landmark is also a proper but approximate transition to chart the usage of terms referring to the people of this country: Orientales and Uruguayans. The term Banda Oriental, or Eastern Bank, referred to the territory east of the Uruguay River, currently Uruguay. The predominant term for people born in the territory of modern-day Uruguay was Orientales, given that this land was called Banda Oriental, Provincia Oriental, and, after independence, Estado Oriental del Uruguay and its current name República Oriental del Uruguay. The descendants of the Spaniards, the criollos of Montevideo and its countryside, called themselves Orientales in the late colonial period and during the nineteenth century. The Constitutional Assembly named the new country Estado Oriental del Uruguay in May 1829, drawing on the prevalent term Oriental. Usage in the early twentieth century, when massive European immigration changed the demographics of Uruguay, increasingly made the terms “Uruguay” and “Uruguayan” prevalent, but without eliminating the expression Orientales that still is employed by Uruguayans.

Overviews and Longue-Durée Perspectives

This section gathers three types of publications: i) overviews of Uruguayan history (Caetano and Rilla 2004, Caetano 2019), ii) edited volumes on the whole or parts of the country’s history (Caetano 2016, Cameselle-Pesce and Sharnak 2023) and on Uruguay within the Rio de la Plata region (Prado, et al. 2021), and iii) longe-durée (long-term) perspectives of specific historical issues such as mentalities (Barrán 1989–1992), secularization (Barrán 1998), the economic history of the countryside (Moraes 2008), and the process of securing land property rights (Duffau 2022).

  • Barrán, José P. Historia de la sensibilidad en el Uruguay. 2 vols. Montevideo, Uruguay: Ediciones de la Banda Oriental, 1989–1992.

    Groundbreaking multivolume study where Barrán introduces the critical concept of “disciplinamiento” to understand changing attitudes about violence, sexuality, games, and death from the colonial period to the early twentieth century, a genuine best-seller in Uruguay. Late-19th-century social, economic, and political modernization meant increasing disciplining of women, children, and lower classes by the new state institutions. Internalized personal guilt became the basis of the new liberal 20th-century Uruguay.

  • Barrán, José P. La espiritualización de la riqueza. Montevideo, Uruguay: Ediciones de la Banda Oriental, 1998.

    A thorough study on the spiritual use of wealth (through wills) from the colonial era to the late nineteenth century, this book dates secularization back to the early nineteenth century, when changes in the private religious behavior about the use of wealth occurred. This transformation preceded public discussions about the separation of Church and State typical of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

  • Caetano, Gerardo. Historia mínima del Uruguay. Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 2019.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv15tt6x1

    A brief overview of the history of Uruguay from the 18th-century foundation of Montevideo to the present. The book expands from the chronological point of view while following what Caetano calls “long-term historical profiles” central to local scholarship.

  • Caetano, Gerardo, ed. Uruguay: Historia contemporánea. 3 vols. Montevideo, Uruguay: MAPFRE-Planeta, 2016.

    The multivolume collection focuses on 19th- and 20th-century Uruguay (1808 to 2010). Numerous scholars address the same theme in the three volumes: politics, economy, population and society, culture, and foreign relations.

  • Caetano, Gerardo, and José Rilla. Historia contemporánea del Uruguay. Montevideo, Uruguay: Fin de Siglo, 2004.

    First published in 1994, the second edition (2004) expanded to some of the challenges of contemporary Uruguay. A historical overview from the colonial period to the twenty-first century, mainly anchored in politics, but also touching various social and cultural aspects.

  • Cameselle-Pesce, Pedro, and Debbie Sharnak, eds. Uruguay in Transnational Perspective. New York: Routledge, 2023.

    Edited volume on different aspects of Uruguayan history from colonial times to the present. Specialists wrote contributions, an excellent introduction to sub-fields within Uruguayan history.

  • Duffau, Nicolás. Breve historia sobre la propiedad privada de la tierra en el Uruguay, 1754–1912. Montevideo, Uruguay: Ediciones de la Banda Oriental, 2022.

    Longe-durée historical approach to the process of fixation of land property rights in the territory of Uruguay from 1754, when the Spanish Crown liberalized the market of land, and 1912, when the national cadastre was achieved for the first time, in a context of affirmation of private land ownership with the help of the professionalization of surveying, debates on fiscal policy, and extension of state administration to new areas.

  • Millot, Julio, and Magdalena Bertino. Historia económica del Uruguay. 3 vols. Montevideo, Uruguay: Fundación de Cultura Universitaria, 1996.

    Multivolume work on the economic history of Uruguay. The three volumes, comprising the colonial period to the crisis of the 1930s, are available on the website of the Instituto de Economía (Universidad de la República). The first volume (Desde los orígenes hasta 1860, 1991) focuses on the era prior to 1860, the second on the modernization, and the third on the Batllismo (La economía del batllismo y de los años veinte, 2005).

  • Moraes, María I. La pradera perdida: Historia y economía del agro uruguayo; una visión de largo plazo (1760–1970). Montevideo, Uruguay: Linardi y Risso, 2008.

    Longe-durée monograph on agrarian history. Moraes shows how the historiography of the countryside articulates larger interpretations of Uruguayan history. She focuses on the country’s northern half and the Argentine provinces closer to Uruguay.

  • Prado, Fabricio, Viviana Grieco, and Alex Borucki, eds. The Rio de la Plata from Colony to Nations: Commerce, Society, and Politics. New York: Palgrave, 2021.

    Edited volume on the whole Rio de la Plata region from the colonial period to the end of the nineteenth century, which can connect regional historical developments to the history of Uruguay, particularly on the history of indigenous people, Afro-Uruguayans, merchant networks, popular politics, and connections among regional elites.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.