Scholars of the Mexican north have long labored in the shadows of François Chevalier, whose model of rural development in northern New Spain, first articulated in the 1950s, was for a certain generation the introduction to systems of landholding and labor. The past three decades have found many of that generation writing against Chevalier, positing persuasive alternative models of development based on a more complex, contradictory picture (Eric Van Young uses the term “chiaroscuro”) of the evolution of northern societies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. José Cuello’s Saltillo colonial continues the argument. He examines Saltillo from its founding in 1577 to independence, thus avoiding the topical and temporal fragmentation that he feels characterize other studies of colonial Mexico. He aims to place Saltillo within the larger context of Mexican colonial history, to compare its development with other regions, and in the process to challenge assumptions about northern social and...

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