Remaking Honor, Law, and Liberalism in Venezuela, 1780-1850
Publication Year: 2013
In a highly engaging style, Zahler examines gender and class against the backdrop of Venezuelan institutions and culture during the late colonial period through post-independence (known as the “middle period”). His fine-grained analysis shows that liberal ideals permeated the elite and popular classes to a substantial degree while Venezuelan institutions enjoyed impressive levels of success. Showing remarkable ambition, Venezuela’s leaders aspired to transform a colony that adhered to the king, the church, and tradition into a liberal republic with minimal state intervention, a capitalistic economy, freedom of expression and religion, and an elected, representative government.
Subtle but surprisingly profound changes of a liberal nature occurred, as evidenced by evolving standards of honor, appropriate gender roles, class and race relations, official conduct, courtroom evidence, press coverage, economic behavior, and church-state relations. This analysis of the philosophy of the elites and the daily lives of common men and women reveals in particular the unwritten, unofficial norms that lacked legal sanction but still greatly affected political structures.
Relying on extensive archival resources, Zahler focuses on Venezuela but provides a broader perspective on Latin American history. His examination provides a comprehensive look at intellectual exchange across the Atlantic, comparative conditions throughout the Americas, and the tension between traditional norms and new liberal standards in a postcolonial society.
Published by: University of Arizona Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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The intellectual genesis for this project stems from my experiences de-cades ago. Before and during college, I took time off from my studies to backpack in Central America (1986–1987) and in the Andes (1989). These were turbulent years for Latin America, as some of the worst vio-lence of the Cold War and the drug trade permeated life and politics. I ...
Abbreviations for Archives
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Chronology of Presidencies, 1821-1858
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Map 1. Colonial Venezuela, 1811 (Capitanía General de Venezuela)s internal borders after the Congressional act of March 29, 1832, ...
Introduction: Honor, Law, and Revolution
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On April 11, 2002, I sat in the Venezuela’s Archivo General de la Nación while a human storm brewed outside. As a doctoral student struggling to fathom the musty documents of a centuries-old court case, I became dis-tracted by the sounds of rowdiness in the streets below. The National Ar-chive is situated in a rundown neighborhood of Caracas near the nation’s ...
Chapter One. From Colony to Liberal Republic: The Enlightenment Experiment
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Commerce is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes . . . the spirit of commerce unites nations. . . . The spirit of trade when I observe that we pay for all that we consume from Europe with commodities and money, which are the product of our work and indus...
Chapter Two. Bureaucrats Ascendant: Building a Regime of Law
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On July 8, 1835, Comandante Pedro Carujo faced his prisoner, the presi-dent of the republic, and held out a pistol. Carujo and several other offi-cers had recently rebelled against the elected president, Dr. José María Vargas, and now held him captive in his house. These officers viewed the Vargas presidency as appalling. He was a civilian intellectual who had ...
Chapter Three. Law Versus Justice: Legalism in the Courts
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In January 1823, Policarpo Mendo found himself in a jail cell, and to a large degree his uncertain future hinged upon his reputation. The events that brought him to this precarious situation began a few days earlier, when he stood in a Caracas plaza and watched a cartload of women ac-cused as godas [Spanish loyalists] being driven out of the city. He had ...
Chapter Four. "Patrimony of the Soul" : Honor in the Liberal Republic
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There are two sets of laws, those of honor and those of justice, in many Mine honor is my life; both grow in one; Take honor from me, and my life In 1822, Miguel Arias sat in a Caracas jail cell for having insulted and hit a fellow Venezuelan. He swore that his opponent had insulted him first and that his insults and punches were not criminal acts but rather in self-...
Chapter Five. Wife, Mother, Citizen, Whore: Honor and Law for Women
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On January 21, 1847, Socorro Irasabel hurried into the offices of her local tribunal seeking protection from one of her neighbors. The forty-six-year-old seamstress explained that the previous day her neighbor, Josefa Ran-gel, had grabbed a knife and attempted to kill Socorro’s sister, Juana. When Juana’s son came to his mother’s defense, Josefa had turned to her ...
Chapter Six. Liberalism Without a Loyal Opposition: The Elite Consensus Cracks, 1830's-1840's
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In the preceding chapters, we have considered the evolution of political and legal institutions and the culture of honor as well as how liberals came to dominate Venezuelan politics. The remainder of the book will explore the destruction of the Conservative Oligarchy, a term that refers to the re-gime that governed from 1830 to 1848. This story includes several inter-...
Chapter Seven. The Poor Push Back
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Ezequiel Zamora sat in a military barracks, facing his captors. When asked why he had led an insurrection, he responded, “I rose up against the Government because so many of the newspapers that circulated through-out the Republic said that the Government had broken the Constitution and the laws of the Nation, so I decided to lend a service to my patria, ...
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Across the middle period, Venezuelans underwent a series of dynamic transformations in political, economic, social, and cultural terms. Colo-nial and republican regimes sought to centralize the state’s legislative and judicial power, to construct unambiguous administrative hierarchies, and to establish the supremacy of legislation as the dominant norm of justice ...
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About the Author
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Reuben Zahler received his PhD in history from the University of Chi-cago in 2005 and is currently an assistant professor in the History Depart-ment at the University of Oregon. Inspired by revolutionary disruptions he witnessed during his travels in Central America and the Andes in the 1980s, his research explores Latin America’s first radical efforts to embrace ...
Page Count: 351
Illustrations: 6 illustrations, 9 fig., 3 maps, 2 tables
Publication Year: 2013
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth