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Reviewed by:
  • Un siglo de deuda pública en México
  • Marcello Carmagnani
Un siglo de deuda pública en México. Edited by Leonor Ludlow and Carlos Marichal . Lecturas de Historia Económica Mexicana. Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1998. Tables. Appendix. Bibliographies. 269 pp. Paper.

This volume on Mexico's foreign debt is part of a series devoted to Mexico's economic history, and both students and the general public will find it useful, since the previously published articles reprinted here are difficult to access. The first two articles analyze the impact of the 1820 financial bubble on Mexico's economy. Reinhard Liehr's 1983 article concerning merchant bank houses offers an excellent analysis of the role they played in the negotiations of Mexico's first British loan; Liehr interwines this with a discussion of loans and trade. The following article, published in 1980 by Jaime E. Rodríguez, focuses on the impact that foreign loans had on the Mexican political arena. Guadalupe Nava's essay (originally published in 1971 ), as well as Geneviève Gilles's 1965 article, contain precise information on the evolution of Mexico's internal and foreign debt in the second third of nineteenth century.

The last two essays offer explanations for the changes in the foreign debt at the moment that Mexico entered the international financial system. Carlos Marichal's 1988 article sketches out certain hypotheses regarding the role of foreign debt on the development of Mexico's infrastructure, mainly railways and public services. However, the most valuable essay of this volume is that of Jaime Enrique Zablowski (a chapter from his 1984 doctoral dissertation, which unfortunately remains unpublished). Zablowski uses different economic variables in order to provide a reflective explanation about the role of external financing in Mexico's economic performance between 1880 and 1911. He also explains the benefits of Mexico's return to the international financial system: loans were invested in new public goods and (once Mexico adopted the gold standard) transactions were widely facilitated by its participation in the multilateral international payment system. This, in turn, enabled the full development of its public finances and reduced transaction costs in Mexico's foreign trade.

One would have expected to find Luis Tellez Kuenzler's excellent 1992 article on the relation between economic performance and credibility or realiability factor on the part of Mexico's foreign bondholders in the second half of nineteenth century.

Beyond a doubt, this volume is a good starting point on the topic, and it should encourage deeper and further research on an issue that is further explored in the recent volume edited by M. D. Bordo and R. Cortés Conde, Transferring Wealth and Power from the Old to the New World (Cambridge University Press, 2001 ). The collection has one drawback: the lack of a balanced bibliographic essay. Since its natural readers are students and the general public, one would have expected to find such bibliographical tool in order to provide critical insights and the intellectual tools to enable the nonspecialist to counterweigh and form an opinion concerning the longstanding demonization of foreign capital in Mexican historiography of development.

Marcello Carmagnani
University of Turin


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Archived 2004
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