For more than thirty years Luis Chávez Orozco has been putting students of Mexican economic history in his debt by publishing documents discovered in various archives and libraries. Collaborating in the present volume with a younger scholar, Enrique Florescano of the Colegio de México, Chávez Orozco has put together a collection of documents designed to illustrate facets of the economic history of the state of Veracruz. This volume is intended to be the first in a new series sponsored by the University of Veracruz under the general title Fuentes para la historia económica y social de Veracruz.

The initiation of the series with a volume on the textile industry seems a happy choice. Veracruz was a cotton-growing area of some significance in late colonial times, and certain of its cities, especially Orizaba, later became major cotton textile centers. The industries erected there in the early 1840s during the first wave of modernization were to undergo growth and transformation a half-century later with the aid of foreign capital. Orizaba’s continuing importance as a textile center was to be underlined at the end of the Porfirian era by the outbreak there of major social unrest.

The documents gathered by Chávez Orozco illustrate these developments although in a somewhat uneven manner. The greatest attention is given to the late colonial period and to early decades of the nineteenth century with only a scattering of items for the last half of that century. A substantial amount of space is taken up with descriptions of local economic and social conditions that were prepared in response to two questionnaires, the first distributed by the Veracruz consulado in 1802, the second by the Banco de Avío in 1831.

While normally the publication of such documents would be welcome, the fact is that the consulado material has been published before. Indeed many of the items in this volume are taken from earlier documentary publications with the result that it lacks the freshness which it might otherwise have.

The most valuable part of the volume is a previously unpublished expediente which relates the efforts of a Veracruz entrepreneur in 1803 to obtain a royal monopoly to exploit ixtle and wild silk. The documents carry the story from the original petition to the decision of the viceroy and constitute a neat case study that illuminates the workings of the colonial bureaucracy, the influence of the consulado, and the nature of contemporary attitudes toward such matters as private property, monopolies, and the use of forced labor. For the insights offered, these thirty-five pages are worth the price of the volume.

Apart from the documentary materials, the book contains a series of introductory essays by the editors as well as a bibliography on cotton in Mexico. With the exception of Florescano’s estudio preliminar, the space allocated to these essays could well have been used to greater advantage by presenting additional unpublished materials of the type noted above.