- Crafting the Republic: Lima’s Artisans and Nation-Building in Peru, 1821-1879
This book seeks to fulfill two tasks: to trace the development of a "new postcolonial identity" (p. 5) among Lima's artisan community, and to locate this narrative within both national and international historiographies. García-Bryce ambitiously tracks the role of artisans within the development of the political culture of the Peruvian capital, places artisans as the middle sector within Lima's social hierarchy, compares the Peruvian concepts of nation and citizen with other areas of nineteenth-century Latin America, and tentatively places the Lima example within the broader Atlantic world. The closer García-Bryce is to the particular history of Lima's artisans, the more successful he is; unfortunately, his effort to place this narrative within broader historiographical traditions falls short of his goal.
The book is structured in seven parts: An Introduction, five chapters, and a brief conclusion. The first two chapters treat guilds in the colonial and national eras. Although most craftsmen were not members of guilds, these organizations and cofradías (lay confraternities) provided the contexts for artisan sociability, as well as serving as the vehicles through which artisans engaged in politics, and were engaged by politicians. A corporate mentality did not dominate the artisan community, but references to artisans as a group facilitated the development of a shared identity in the early national period. Significantly, Spanish attempts to limit guild membership to only Spaniards failed, making guilds an important institution for social mobility and political participation by all members of Lima's society, a foundation to an important racial dimension of his analysis. Bourbon efforts to strengthen guild structures offered artisans an initial access to the state, an access that rapidly expanded in the early national period as caudillos sought to marshal support from Lima's middle sectors. Artisans unsuccessfully sought to defend their economic positions against economic liberalizers who opened the Peruvian economy to the world market in the mid century, a struggle that enhanced their sense of a shared identity.
Chapters 3 and 4 might be seen as state projects to define the role of artisans in the years after 1860. National expositions and artisan schools sought to build a body [End Page 683] of skilled craftsmen who might compete with foreigners, while instilling patterns of industry into workers many elites deemed to be idle. Mutual aid societies, the theme of the fourth chapter, enhanced the image of artisans in the eyes of liberal intellectuals, who could now be seen as looking after their own welfare. Artisans, García-Bryce argues, used this enhanced perception to forward demands for a formal political role and social respectability, the theme of Chapter 5. By utilizing two artisan newspapers, the author details how some artisans viewed their declining personal fortunes, the travails of the country, and the positive role that artisan/citizens could make in a republic tailored to their interests.
García-Bryce concludes by arguing that "the story of a modern working class began with artisans' struggles as they came to terms with liberalism" (p. 165), a claim that illustrates the successes and shortcomings of the work. The author convincingly details the emergence of an artisan identity, especially as articulated in the arena of nineteenth-century arena public politics. Evoking E. P. Thompson, a major question becomes whether this "class" represented the working or middle sectors. In asserting that artisan self-identity revolved around questions of citizenship and social challenges to liberalism, his work fits squarely within the literature that has dominated artisan studies for twenty years. García-Bryce misses the opportunity to link this analysis with the subaltern perspective of Florencia Mallon, which raises the question of how "nationalist" artisan republicanism might have been. A discussion of how artisans as middle sectors linked (or failed to link) with the "middle class" analysis of David Parker would have also strengthened the work. Finally, by ending the...