The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977 Page: 444
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
ranching and commerce" (p. 313). In less than a century Jos6 Miguel
and his family had amassed the largest landholding in Latin America-a
latifundio composed of seventeen haciendas and covering more than I6.5
million acres-and had come to dominate the economic and political life
of northern Mexico. Utilizing the extensive S.nchez Navarro papers at
the University of Texas at Austin, Charles H. Harris has skillfully com-
bined the history of this remarkable family with a detailed analysis of
their business methods and political activities. Unlike earlier hacienda
studies, including Frangois Chevalier's classic Land and Society in Colon-
ial Mexico, Harris focuses not on the hacienda as an institution but on
the interaction between the hacendado family and the evolution of the
latifundio. Throughout the volume, Harris emphasizes the importance of
the Sinchez Navarros' "widespread network of family connections" (p.
313) in the development and management of their various enterprises.
In his introduction, Harris asserts, "The case study of the Sanchez
Navarros calls into question many of the earlier generalizations made about
the Mexican hacienda . . ." (p. xvii). He has proved his case well. Al-
though in their acquisition of vast landholdings, use of debt peonage, and
inefficient use of land and reliance on traditional methods of production,
the SAnchez Navarros conform to the stereotype of the hacendado family,
in other ways they differ significantly. Never absentee landowners, living
a life of luxurious idleness, the Sanchez Navarros remained on their es-
tates and took a personal interest in every detail of their management.
More important, the development of the latifundio was but one aspect of
the family's diverse activities. Their principal objective was not to make
their estates self-sufficient but to produce for profit. The family invested
in mining and manufacturing and their extensive commercial enterprises
included production for both regional and national markets.
Harris's study spans the era of transition from colony to nation and
examines both "continuity and change in Mexico's evolving socioeconomic
structure" (p. 313) during this important period. Although Harris con-
cludes that the period 1750-1850 could, and perhaps should, be treated
as an integral unit, he nonetheless adopts the more traditional pattern of
colonial-national division. Thus the book is divided into two sections. The
first covers the development of the latifundio and related enterprises from
their inception to the end of the colonial period. Part two traces the furth-
er history of the family and their estates from 1821 to 1867. Within each
section the treatment is topical and covers the major areas of the family's
activities: land, ranching, labor, latifundio production, commerce, and
politics. The result is a provocative and stimulating study which should
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977, periodical, 1976/1977; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101204/m1/498/: accessed April 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.