Students of Mexican economic history have long been in debt to Luis Chávez Orozco, not only for his interpretive essays, but for his continuous efforts to make documentary materials available to a wider public than the occasional scholar able to examine in person the rich holdings of Mexico’s libraries and archives. Many of his earlier documentary volumes appeared in mimeographed form. With support from the Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior, however, he published the seven attractively printed volumes that comprised the first series of the Colección de documentos para la historia del comercio exterior de México. He had embarked on a second series when death brought to an end his labors in 1966. The three volumes under review constitute only a part of the projected second series.
In the first of these volumes, El comercio exterior y el artesano mexicano (1825-1830), Chávez Orozco focuses attention on a problem that long ago engaged his sympathies: the plight of the artisan in the face of destructive foreign competition during the first decade of independence. Despite the time interval given by the title, more than half the contents of this volume deal with the tariff debates leading to a measure of 1824 prohibiting the importation of selected agricultural and manufactured goods. In his introduction (p. 16) Chávez Orozco gives the impression that the enactment was a victory for the artisans, but an analysis of the law would reveal that in the area of their greatest concern, the influx of foreign cotton goods, the lawmakers refused their demand for prohibition.
None of the documents in this volume, most of which are drawn from contemporary pamphlets, illustrates the debate that preceded the 1827 tariff reform. On the other hand Chávez Orozco includes one item on the abortive Godoy project of 1829 and a number of anonymous pieces written in the form of dialogues which give a clear picture of artisan discontent after 1829. A selective rather than comprehensive view of the interrelationship between Mexican artisans and foreign trade emerges from this volume.
In the second volume, Chávez Orozco directs attention to a major topic that is still seeking its historian. The full significance of the expulsion of the Spaniards from Mexico after 1827 needs to be explored from an economic as well as a social or political point of view. A sampling of contemporary polemical materials, the text of the expulsion decree of December 20, 1827, and excerpts from several Mexican historians’ writings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries comprise the contents of the volume. Again no effort is made to give comprehensive coverage, but the student of this tragic event will find much that is useful in Chávez Orozco’s thoughtful introduction to the volume.
Under the title El Banco de Avío y el fomento de la industria nacional, Chávez Orozco returns to a theme which he called to scholars’ attention for the first time over thirty years ago in the initial volume of the mimeographed series, Documentos para la historia económica de México (11 vols., México, 1933-1936). In the present volume he reproduces a variety of printed materials relating to the Banco de Avío, but the concentration on its early years and the omission of any documents illustrating its last five years of operations are disappointing. Much of the volume is taken up by the reproduction of the four annual reports issued by the bank before 1838. In his introduction (p. 16) Chávez Orozco implies that these were the only ones it ever published, but in fact it issued another and highly useful report in 1841. The deficiencies of the present volume, however, do not detract from the fact that it brings together in convenient form a greater body of printed sources on the Banco de Avío than has hitherto been available.