The Time of Liberty

Popular Political Culture in Oaxaca, 1750–1850

The Time of Liberty

Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 3 maps Published: April 2005

Author: Peter Guardino

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico, Politics > Political Science

Between 1750 and 1850 Spanish American politics underwent a dramatic cultural shift as monarchist colonies gave way to independent states based at least nominally on popular sovereignty and republican citizenship. In The Time of Liberty, Peter Guardino explores the participation of subalterns in this grand transformation. He focuses on Mexico, comparing local politics in two parts of Oaxaca: the mestizo, urban Oaxaca City and the rural villages of nearby Villa Alta, where the population was mostly indigenous. Guardino challenges traditional assumptions that poverty and isolation alienated rural peasants from the political process. He shows that peasants and other subalterns were conscious and complex actors in political and ideological struggles and that popular politics played an important role in national politics in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Guardino makes extensive use of archival materials, including judicial transcripts and newspaper accounts, to illuminate the dramatic contrasts between the local politics of the city and of the countryside, describing in detail how both sets of citizens spoke and acted politically. He contends that although it was the elites who initiated the national change to republicanism, the transition took root only when engaged by subalterns. He convincingly argues that various aspects of the new political paradigms found adherents among even some of the most isolated segments of society and that any subsequent failure of electoral politics was due to an absence of pluralism rather than a lack of widespread political participation.


“[A] pathbreaking study. . . . Guardino casts new light upon regional political life in Oaxaca in both the city and in the rural villages of Villa Alta. . . . [T]his fascinating study opens new windows to explain a regional political picture that until now has been quite murky.” — Christon I. Archer, Hispanic American Historical Review

“[A] very valuable study.” — Angela T. Thompson, History: Reviews of New Books

“[E]xhaustive…. Guardino provides an invaluable biography of Benito Juárez and his milieu in the heartland of La Reforma, and one which unravels whiggish projections of radical anti-clericalism and calls for the juridical abolition of indigenous communities back onto the 1820s and 1830s … These contributions will help to make The Time of Liberty required reading and earn its passage into the canon of nineteenth-century Mexican history.” — Everard Meade, Journal of Latin American Studies

“[G]uardino challenges the view that Oaxaca’s Indians, with their ‘traditional’ or ‘timeless’ cultures, were unaffected by transformations in national politics. His study of court records finds the new political language everywhere in apparently mundane, non-political internal village conflicts like communal service obligations. By examining not only the social and cultural aspirations of peasants. . . . Guardino is able to challenge conventional wisdom about the political lives of subalterns.” — Ronald Jay Morgan, Itinerario

“[T]his is an extremely important study of regional and national politics in Mexico. . . . By taking a broad view of politics, culture, and society during the formative period of nation-building in Mexico, Guardino offers a new perspective on peasant politics and on connections linking the village, region, and state.” — Scott Eastman, Ethnohistory

“[T]his is path-breaking history at its best.” — Andrew Grant Wood, The Latin Americanist

“His arguments are coherent and he shows a facility for summarizing debates. The Time of Liberty is a well-researched, original and thoroughly interesting piece of scholarship that contributes to our understanding of a crucial period in Latin American history.” — John Monaghan, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Historians and graduate students will appreciate how the author constantly probes questions of historical research and historiography….” — Francie Chassen-López, American Historical Review

“Peter Guardino was one of the pioneers of the new scholarship on nineteenth-century nation and state formation, and especially the roles of subalterns in these processes, that emerged in the 1990s. His new book is an important and valuable addition to this debate…. The book will be a touchstone for studies of popular politics, not only in Mexico….” — James E. Sanders, Canadian Journal of History

“Peter Guardino’s new book reflects some of the most interesting and innovative trends in the study of Mexican political history over the last decade or so, trends of which he himself has been one of the architects.” — Eric Van Young, Journal of Social History

“What sets Guardino’s book apart, as he says himself, is its comparative and entirely empirical methodology, as well as the fact that it gives equal (or even slightly greater) attention to the rural peasants than to the urban proletariat. Guardino is able to comment upon or modify the most recent theoretical views of the subject of the transformation of political hegemonies at independence and the extent to which indigenous people comprehended and responded to the new political philosophies of republican democracy and ethnic equality. In addition, he offers solid new approaches to the old problem of explaining the postindependence political instability of Mexico.” — Timothy E. Anna, The Historian

"Guardino's book makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of nonelite politics in early independent Mexico. . . ." — Emmett Lombard, Perspectives on Political Science

The Time of Liberty is a welcome and much needed addition to the literatures on popular political culture, indigenous politics, independence, and the first half-century of Mexico’s independent political life. It will be influential in debates on nineteenth-century Mexican history and more broadly." — Florencia E. Mallon, author of Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru

The Time of Liberty takes on the most important issues around Mexican independence and draws fundamentally important and transforming conclusions. It is the finest analysis yet written of politics and political culture before, during, and after Mexican independence.” — John Tutino, author of From Insurrection to Revolution in Mexico: Social Bases of Agrarian Violence, 1750–1940


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Peter Guardino is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of Peasants, Politics, and the Formation of Mexico’s National State: Guerrero, 1800–1857.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. Society, Economy, and Politics in Colonial Antequera 19

2. Society, Economy, and Political Culture in Colonial Villa Alta 40

3. Bourbon Intentions and Subaltern Responses 91

4. Loyalty, Liberalism, War, and Independence 122

5. Oil and Vinegar: The Construction and Dissolution of Republican Order in the City of Oaxaca 156

6. The Reconstruction of Order in the Countryside 223

Conclusion 275

Notes 293

Bibliography 369

Index 395
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3520-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3508-5
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