Local history, or what Mexico’s leading practitioner calls micro-historia, is presently throughout the Atlantic World one of the most fruitful and attractive areas of research. Its attraction appears to stem from two sources. The first is the dissatisfaction felt by increasingly sophisticated and professional historians with existing generalizations, particularly about socioeconomic phenomena. These generalizations must be tested on the local level. The second source is what González identifies as the regionalist impulse of our times, the search for identity in the authentic and personal world of local and rural traditions in the face of modernization.

This volume includes three papers, delivered between 1969 and 1972, which characterize the field, its practitioners and their methods, as well as historiographical traditions in both Europe and Mexico. The last half of the book is a useful list of local and regional histories of Mexico by Mexicans, published between 1871 and 1970. During the regimes of Júarez, Lerdo, and Díaz, this type of historiography served as a defense of provincial integrity against the strong centralizing force of the national government. The years 1910 to 1940, when “the province was the patria,” saw a florescence of localism in literature and history. Since 1940, says González, the relationship between provincial sentiment and national patriotism is unclear, as is the status and function of microhistory. The purpose of these essays is in part to establish this status and function.

Though Luis González’ “invitation” is directed toward his country-men, his essays reveal a broad mastery of recent foreign literature on local history. They are written with the grace of style, the charm, the sense of humor, and the high intelligence that we associate with Pueblo en vilo. González is the enemy of pretense and pomposity in subject or in style, a quality that lends strength to his work.

The author gives much attention to the underdevelopment of microhistory in Mexico. Pursued by local scholars out of filiopiety, the genre has lacked modern methods, resources, publication support, and a market beyond the area in question. González’ book includes many specific suggestions that would upgrade and professionalize the genre by eliciting the moral and financial support of government and academia. He also argues the value of microhistory on pedagogical as well as on intellectual grounds, as a way to help Mexicans appreciate the rich cultural diversity of their nation in an age of increasing urbanization and homogeneity.

The tone of these essays is distinctly ambivalent, making the author’s “invitation” confusing, at least to the professional historian. It is not clear that González is really sympathetic to the increased professionalization of microhistory—for example, the way it has developed in France in the last twenty years. When he characterizes the micro-historian as approaching his task with few hypotheses or previous ideas and “an open heart” (p. 57); when he says that microhistory emanates from the heart and not the head, from love and nostalgia for family and soil, he is not speaking pejoratively about a traditional genre that is for him passé. He makes it clear that detachment is not a virtue in microhistory. His characterization of the profesional capitalino as one type of present-day local historian is not flattering, and one wonders if in González’ view, this type, to say nothing of the foreigner, really has a role. Moreover, one even detects a trace of ideology in his argument, for example, the assertion that the “natural course of Mexican historical science is localist” as opposed to other courses that “have often been imposed by power, foreign imitation, and academic fashion and pedantry” (p. 65). He seems to be arguing for a “philosophy of little things” in the development of Mexican historiography. González’ ambivalence toward professionalism and his localist ideology, however muted, are undoubtedly healthy and attractive tendencies, but they present a challenge that demands debate.