Mexican studies suffered a major loss on June 14, 1978, with the death of Manuel Carrera Stampa, economic historian and author of over a hundred books and articles on the colonial period. Carrera Stampa was born in Mexico City in 1917 and attended preparatory schools in the capital. He graduated from the National University with degrees in law and history, studied anthropology at the Escuela Nacional de Antropología, and did post-graduate work in history at Northwestern University. He was a student also at the Centro de Estudios Históricos of El Colegio de México, where he participated in the celebrated seminars conducted by Ramón Iglesia. Attracting the attention of Silvio Zavala, President of the Comisión de Historia of the Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia, he was selected to investigate history of the Mexican scholarly missions to Europe and to establish the International Committee on Archives of the PAIGH. These tasks reflected his lifelong interest in archives and archival research. He received his doctorate in Ciencias Históricas in 1953 and at the same time was appointed to a professorship in the faculty of Contaduría y Administración of the University of Mexico, a position he held for twenty-five years. In 1956, he was chosen to succeed Manuel Toussaint in the Academia Mexicana de Historia and for many years he served as secretary of that institution.

Carrera Stampa’s scholarly publications are notable for theừ thoroughness and attention to detail. He particularly relished publications that represented long-term accumulations of material, and some of his most successful and important writings are of this type, consisting basically of catalogs skillfully organized and annotated. In 1949, when he was still known chiefly as the author of occasional articles, he suddenly published four major works: (1) Misiones mexicanas en archivos europeos, the extensive study commissioned by the PAIGH; (2) Planos de la Ciudad de México desde 1521 hasta nuestros días, a collection of sketches, plans, and maps showing the situation and layout of the historic urban zone; (3) Guía del Archivo del Antiguo Ayuntamiento de la Ciudad de México, the work that first brought to the attention of the scholarly world the riches of this municipal collection; and (4) “The Evolution of Weights and Measures in New Spain,” HAHR, 29 (Feb. 1949), pp. 2-24, a study that in many respects has not been superseded in thirty years. These writings made his name known everywhere among students of Mexican history. There followed his Archivalta mexicana (1952), which served for years as a vade mecum for historians working in archives in Mexico City and in other parts of the country.

In the early period he was attracted especially to the history of art, a field in which he continued to publish various articles and texts throughout his lifetime. But by the 1950s he was working principally in economic history, his major contribution to this being Los gremios mexicanos (1954), a full reconstruction of colonial craft guilds, their members, their regulations, and their function in the society. Subsequently he concentrated on bibliography concerning Indian history, the field in which he published extensively during the late 1950s and the 1960s. Other subjects that engaged his attention were the history of the Mexican post office, the history of Mexico City, and the Academia Mexicana de la Historia.

Carrera Stampa lived a quiet and secluded academic life, spending his days and years in university teaching and in the patient collection of archival data. He was a familiar figure in the major and minor archives of the city. He was a friendly person, generous to other students and modest concerning his own accomplishments. In some branches of applied paleography, his skills were unmatched. His work was strongly empirical. His scholarly strength lay in objective facts carefully arranged to present a systematic and rational record.

Author notes


The author is Professor of History at the University of Michigan.