The Oddones deserve praise for having undertaken so successfully a pioneer study of how the various disciplines were taught at the University of Montevideo from 1849 to 1885. What they have written is a substantial contribution to the intellectual history of Uruguay. This is not to say that the development of the organization and administration of the University are ignored. Ample attention is given to the effects of political instability, governmental indifference, and an impoverished state treasury on the courses of instruction, enrollment, the availability of laboratory equipment, and the existence and internal government of the University itself. Why the University was relieved of its role in elementary and secondary education and why the concept of education as a state monopoly lost its ascendancy are also stressed.
Once they have disposed of the problems and accomplishments of the different rectorados, the authors analyze the methodological evolution within each discipline offered in the three centers of the University—the Preparatory Section, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Medicine—and the philosophy, political principles, pedagogical methods, and sources of inspiration of each professor. Until the 1870s, for example, science instructors emphasized theory and memorization and conducted no class experiments for lack of equipment. Professors of civil law, which included commercial and natural law, also stressed memory. When it was established in 1876, the Faculty of Medicine was staffed essentially by foreign doctors, who obtained the equipment necessary for experiments. Native doctors eventually filled all the teaching positions.
A wide variety of philosophical ideas based on foreign works permeated teaching in the Faculty of Law. This was possible in part because the average professor taught for only about four years and in part because the rising middle class from which the professors came was seeking its own set of values. The intellectual pace lagged far behind that of Europe, for scholasticism in philosophy was just giving way to “eclectic spiritualism” when positivism was already triumphant in France. Indeed, rationalism and positivism were not widely accepted in the University until 1870 and 1880, respectively.
The changes in ideological orientation are clearer in economics, international law, and constitutional law. At first the emphasis in economics was on ultraliberal Italian economic thought, but there was a shift in 1865 to classical economics and anti-utilitarianism. In 1872 economic nationalism colored by the American liberal tradition began to predominate, and economists concentrated on the socio-economic development of Uruguay. Instruction in international relations passed through three distinct phases: a classical orientation, a tolerant rationalism influenced by spiritualism, and Darwinian evolution and positivism. Irrespective of their particular philosophy, all instructors quickly came to grips with the problems of democracy and America. Constitutional law, included in economics since 1861, had its own professor in 1871, and his lectures sounded like those of a doctrinaire French liberal of 1830 as modified by Story, Kent, and others. His successor was a “metaphysical spiritualist” and a virulent critic of positivism who used Story, Stuart Mill, and The Federalist. He was followed by a convert to Chilean positivism.
The data the authors have collected, incomplete as it may be, suggests that some historical revisions are in order. The value and usefulness of the book for scholars is further enhanced by appendices of substantiating documents and enrollment statistics, an extensive bibliography, and an excellent index. This reviewer eagerly looks forward to the announced second volume, in which the Oddones will carry the story of the University down to 1908.