The William P. Lyons Master’s Essay Award was established in 1960 by the Department of History at Loyola University in Chicago and Loyola University Press to encourage significant work in history at the Master’s level. This brief, fascinating study of socio-economic conditions on the Sánchez Navarro latifundio won the award in 1963.

The Sánchez Navarros were one of the oldest and most influential families in Coahuila; they were by far the largest landowners during the period covered by this study, owning more than half the land of Coahuila, including the most productive parts. Mr. Harris describes the structure and administration of this primarily sheep-raising latifundio and discusses operations and transactions, thus contributing to an understanding of the functioning and problems of the large estate in this area. Among the problems faced by the Sánchez Navarros in this period were: the war with the United States, from which the family profited by provisioning the United States Army; drought, whose effects Jacobo Sánchez Navarro tried to offset by collecting from buyers the amount promised despite the poor condition of animals shipped; Indian raids, losses which Sánchez Navarro unsuccessfully tried to recoup by filing claims against the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; and hindrances to commerce posed by complex and multitudinous government regulations.

It is the author’s contention that the Sánchez Navarro latifundio was operated as a business, thus contradicting the general view of haciendas as being “only in a limited way subject to the rules of economic enterprise, management for profit, and sale for gain.” Evidence to support this contention is provided by the careful records and reports kept on operations, reports that included information on the remuda, tools and equipment, and the number of days worked each month by the peons; the procedure followed to prepare flocks of sheep for market further proves that the estates were operated as a business. The author also points out that the Sánchez Navarros were not absentee-landlords and that they possessed considerable liquid capital which they invested in a variety of enterprises. On the other hand, Mr. Harris notes that the sheepraising operations combined primitive techniques with a modern accounting system; furthermore, the quality of Sánchez Navarro sheep was relatively poor, and yet nothing was done to improve it which would hardly seem to be good business.

Mr. Harris has done a creditable piece of work in an area needing detailed studies. The treatment is somewhat uneven, and there are gaps, possibly because of gaps in the Sánchez Navarro documents, the main source used. As a result questions are raised relative to the operations of the latifundio, as well as on the social aspects of life. The study is valuable, nevertheless, and its expansion in scope and time to provide a complete history of the Sánchez Navarros, their properties, and their activities would be most useful.