- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0114
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0114
Latin American urban history is a capacious field. “Urban history” can refer both to the history of cities and to history that unfolds within cities, encompassing a broad spectrum of methodological and thematic concerns. Latin America is a diverse region, and nearly every Latin American country has its own rich urban historiography. And historians have been analyzing cities for a very long time, often in intense dialogue with social science and cultural studies, leaving in their wake multiple strata of research and insight. Given this richness and diversity, any single bibliography necessarily excludes much. This article aims to introduce an international readership to the categories, methodologies, and themes that have shaped the evolution of Latin American urban history. This bibliography defines urban history broadly, but generally it includes only works in which the city itself assumes a central role. It favors more recent studies, but it includes multiple generations of works in subfields where important perspectives have fallen by the wayside. Most of the books listed are available in English, and accessible even to readers who lack extensive grounding in national historiographies. But the article also includes outstanding works in Spanish, Portuguese, and French, and the English-language works discuss national historiographies at length. The list tends to emphasize those countries where urban historiographies are densest—especially Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina—but it also integrates studies from across the region. Historians wrote most of these works, but social scientists and cultural scholars also appear, especially when the historiography has yet to tackle crucial questions and recent developments. The thematic subcategories include both well-developed and emerging historiographies. The list begins with general works, bibliographical essays, interdisciplinary collections, and “biographies” of particular cities. It continues with a long series of thematic subfields that have shaped the field over time: cultural and intellectual history, planning and spatial geography, Atlantic world connections, economic life, public health, slavery and freedom, race, migration, gender, poverty, politics, social movements, labor, citizenship and informality, crime and violence, consumption and the middle classes, and urban disasters. The books assembled here do not constitute the last word on Latin American urban history. Given the sheer variety of perspectives and methodologies encompassed by the field, this would be impossible. But this list does aim to serve as a first word, a preliminary representative guide to a dense, complex, sophisticated field that has long been central to Latin American historiography.
General Works and Bibliographical Essays
Recent synthetic works on Latin America’s urban history are relatively few, a fact that perhaps reflects the field’s sprawling and fragmented evolution. For the colonial period, Morse 1984 creatively synthesizes the then-extant historiography. Hoberman and Socolow 1986 contains an array of strong social history essays. Gilbert 1994 provides a good undergraduate-level introduction to demographic, spatial, and political history from the mid-20th century to 1990s. Modernists may garner the most from successive generations of historiographical essays: Scobie 1986, a contribution on demographic and social history; de Oliveira and Roberts 1994, an essay on the impact of mass urbanization and industrialization on urban social structures; Armus and Lear 1998, a brief but sweeping piece on Latin America’s urban historiography; and Rosenthal 2000, an intelligent reflection on public space in Latin American urban historiography. Almandoz Marte 2008 returns to the tradition of Richard Morse, providing a sweeping overview of Latin American intellectual production with its own historiographical compass.
Almandoz Marte, Arturo. Entre libros de historia urbana: Para una historiografia de la ciudad y del urbanismo en América Latina. Caracas, Venezuela: Equinoccio-Universidad Simón Bolívar, 2008.
A welcome recent reflection on Latin America’s urban historiography. Almandoz focuses mainly on Spanish America (with some attention to Brazil) and highlights the historiography’s embeddedness in international intellectual currents. A strong introduction to classic works by scholars such as Jorge Hardoy, Richard Morse, José Luis Romero, and Roberto Segre, as well as an insightful critical analysis of more recent scholarship.
Armus, Diego, and John Lear. “The Trajectory of Latin American Urban History.” Journal of Urban History 24.3 (1998): 291–301.
Brief but comprehensive, this article traces the trajectory of Latin American urban history, in the process interrogating its coherence as a field of study. Armus and Lear’s incorporation of the early phases of the recent boom in urban cultural history is especially useful, as is their periodization of the field.
de Oliveira, Orlandina, and Bryan Roberts. “Urban Growth and Urban Social Structure in Latin America, 1930–1990.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 6, Latin America since 1930: Economy, Society and Politics. Part 1: Economy and Society. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 253–324. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Considers the sociological impact of urbanization between 1930 and 1990, and especially the ways in which Latin America’s distinct patterns of economic development shaped the form and impact of mass urbanization. Oliveira and Roberts give particular attention to questions of class structure and inequality.
Gilbert, Alan. The Latin American City. London: Latin American Bureau, 1994.
Well suited for undergraduates, this remains a strong socioeconomic, political, and geographical overview of Latin American urban development in the second half of the 20th century. Based mostly on English- and some Spanish-language publications, with relatively thin coverage of Brazil. The demographic tables are especially useful.
Hoberman, Louisa, and Susan Socolow. Cities and Society in Colonial Latin America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986.
Focused mainly on social groups and power structures, this collection’s chapters range across the social spectrum, investigating everything from the basis of urban economic, political, and military power to the roles of urban clergy to the structures of artisan guilds and the history of the urban poor.
Morse, Richard. “The Urban Development of Colonial Spanish America.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 2, Colonial Latin America. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 67–104. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
This essay displays the creative erudition of a remarkable and eclectic urban historian, even as it introduces readers to the most significant works of colonial urban history. Those seeking an overview of an important period in intellectual history will also appreciate Morse’s “Los intelectuales latinoamericanos y la ciudad, 1870–1940.”
Rosenthal, Anton. “Spectacle, Fear, and Protest: A Guide to the History of Urban Public Space in Latin America.” Social Science History 24.1 (Spring 2000): 33–73.
This is a thoughtful overview with special emphasis on the question of urban public space. Specific sections focus on the history of urban social protest, writings on the social spaces of streets and plazas, and accounts of urban spectacle.
Scobie, James. “The Growth of Latin American Cities, 1870–1930.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 4, c. 1870 to 1930. Edited by Leslie Bethel, 233–266. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Scobie’s article provides a clear synthesis of Latin American urban history as it was practiced in the mid-1980s. Scobie emphasizes demographic change, economic function, and the impact of both on urban space, society, and politics.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Ancient Andean Textiles
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Andean Music
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Brazil, The
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Atlantic Creoles
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial Legal History of Peru
- Colonial New Granada
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Dependency Theory in Latin American History
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500–1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Dutch in South America and the Caribbean, The
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- From "National Culture" to the "National Popular" and the ...
- Gaucho Literature
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guaraní and Their Legacy, The
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Guatemala (Colonial Period)
- Guatemala (Modern & National Period)
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- José María Arguedas and Early 21st Century Cultural and Po...
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Magical Realism
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Nationalism
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Paz, Octavio
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Ponce de León
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Puerto Rican Literature
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Santo Domingo
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish American Arab Literature
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Spiritual Conquest of Latin America, The
- Telenovelas and Melodrama in Latin America
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Venezuelan Literature
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas