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Murdo J. Macleod Book Prize

Prize & Past Winners

2021 Contest

Professor Murdo J. MacLeod was a historian of colonial Latin American and the Caribbean. He wrote, among other things, Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History (University of TX Press, [1973], [1984], 2008).

We invite submissions for books published on Latin America, the Atlantic World, the Borderlands, and the Caribbean, time frame of study is open. The book itself must have been published between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

Criteria for selection include: quality and originality of research, new and stimulating interpretations and writing quality.

Please include a cover letter with the name of the author, institutional affiliation, and a summary of the book.

Authors must be or become LACS members at the time of submission. See the membership page.


Send one copy of the book to each to the following four prize committee members:

Professor Bradley Benton, committee chair
North Dakota State University
Mail to:
Prof. Benton
416 7th Street S.
Moorehead, MN 56560

Professor María de los Ángeles Picone
Boston College
Mail to:
Prof. Picone
Stokes Hall Rm S304 - History Department 
140 Commonwealth Ave. - Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Professor Sherry Johnson
Florida International University
Mail to:
Prof. Johnson
PO Box 886
Citra, FL 32113

Prof. Erica Johnson Edwards
Francis Marion University
Mail to:
Prof. Johnson Edwards
2001 Morganton Rd
Fayetteville, NC 28305

Past Winners

2020 Winner: Amy Offner. Sorting Out the Mixed Economy. The Rise and Fall of Welfare and Developmental States in the Americas (Princeton University Press, 2019). 

This is a superbly written, profusely documented, and overall remarkable transnational account of developmental policies in Colombia, and of their close entanglement with U.S. domestic policies and policymakers. This thoroughly researched economic history places the trajectories of the US and Latin America in postwar twentieth-century in dialogue with one another. Offner argues that the unraveling of the US welfare state, first established during the New Deal, and the internal contradictions of the developmental states in Latin America, must be analyzed as parallel and deeply entwined processes. Antipoverty policies in the U.S. in the postwar era are shown to have been closely tied to Latin American economic development, in particular

agrarian and land-tenure policies, housing, and public education. In the process, the study establishes that in both the U.S. and Colombia corporate influence was paramount.

Her research and analysis cover both the economy and economic policies, and her argument underscores the rise of economics itself and business administration as authoritative sciences. Offner’s innovative thesis is that the neoliberal post-development policies that forced privatization, disassembled social welfare programs, and opposed the statecraft of development during the last third of the twentieth century arose from the developmentalist actors, institutions, and philosophies of mid-century. The book illustrates the backlash coming from various social groups, including rural farmers, lower- and middle-class urban dwellers, and college students. It is an important study on transnational capitalism in the west and shall become a classic.

The country that serves as her research focus in Latin America is Colombia, where David Lilienthal and US capitalists attempted to reproduce the Tennessee Valley Authority developmental project in the Cauca valley. This is not merely a policy-wonk kind of study, however, since the author exhibits sensitive understanding and first-hand knowledge of the social fabric of Colombia, including its inequalities and the cross-generational alliances among traditional mining and agricultural families of Cauca and businessmen who arrived there from other provinces of Colombia, Europe, and the U.S. Offner’s study of the economy and governmental institutions does not fail to take into account the violence of civil wars and international organized crime; rather she draws these phenomena into her analysis.

The endnotes are monumental with bibliographic references (it is unfortunate that the editors did not allow for a unified bibliography) and the list of archives as well as oral interviews conducted by the author substantiates the depth and breadth of the research foundation for this study.

This is a welcome contribution to the modern history of the Americas, one that will not only endure but set the direction for future studies. It represents transnational history at its best.

 Honorable Mention (2020): Elizabeth Penry. The People Are King. The Making of an Indigenous Andean Politics. Oxford University Press, 2019. 

This is a superb study, with a deep and broad archival base. It provides a highly readable, persuasive, and original long durée account of adjustments to popular understandings of politics, religion, and public life in the Andes as a result of Spanish colonization. The way it explains changes in indigenous ideas of religiosity, self-government, and sovereignty broadly speaking, makes it possible to see late 18th century rebellions in a new light.

Penry develops an original argument, which she skillfully weaves into a compelling narrative throughout each chapter. The Tupac Amaru/Tupac Catari rebellions are well known and studied, but her emphasis on the comuneros and their growing opposition to the Andean

caciques as well as to priests and corregidores is innovative, and it makes an important contribution to the fields of ethnohistory and the history of Latin America writ large. The originality of her conclusions is twofold: first, that the revolts were as much about the comunero/cacique split as they were assaults on Spanish rule and, secondly, that Andeans created their identity of comunero from both the ayllu of pre-Hispanic origins and the Castilian traditions of town cabildos and church cofradías.

Except for omitting references to recent histories of the Bolivian lowlands or the Guaraní of Argentina and Paraguay that focus on the Indigenous cabildos and evolving identities, Penry clearly commands the published literature and cites it well, including comparative studies from Mesoamerica and Spain. To research this book, she worked in twelve archives across Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Spain as well as major libraries in the U.S. and Spain. Her narration brings to life “Indigenous voices” in ways that contribute to the ethnohistorical value of the study and bring these stories into the rhythm of the book. This is a remarkable ethnohistorical study of popular political culture that documents the way popular sovereignty was lived by Andean communities.

2019 Winner: 

Dr. Elena A. Schneider of the University of California, Berkeley, The Occupation of Havana: War, Trade, and Slavery in the Atlantic World (UNC Press, 2018). 

In this compelling and elegant narrative, Professor Schneider reframes our understanding of the occupation of Havana, taking it out of the narrow confines of the Seven Years’ War and re-contextualizing it within the long eighteenth century.  In so doing, she reveals the influence on Cuba of the tangled relations between the British and Spanish Empires prior to the war, the crucial contributions of the enslaved and free people of color throughout, and reverberations of the British siege that echoed through the decades.  This is Atlantic and Caribbean history at its best.

 Honorable Mention: Dr. Jesse Cromwell, the University of Mississippi, The Smugglers’ World: Illicit Trade and Atlantic Communities in Eighteenth-Century Venezuela (UNC Press, 2018).

 Professor Cromwell’s ambitious analysis sheds new light on a notoriously shadowy subject: illicit trade.  With remarkable research and fresh prose, Cromwell shows how the clandestine commerce in cacao sustained Venezuelan colonists economically and created a community on the outskirts of the Spanish Empire.  But, the “smugglers’ world” came into increasing conflict with imperial authorities, and Cromwell argues that the clashes between metropole and colony were critical to the shaping of empire in the Americas more broadly.  His work is a major contribution to our understanding of the history of empire and of the Atlantic economy.

2018 Winner: 
Bianca Premo. The Enlightenment on Trial: Ordinary Litigants and Colonialism in the Spanish Empire (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Honorable Mention (2018): Sasha Turner. Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). 

2017 Winner: Benjamin A. Cowan. Securing Sex. Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil (University of North Carolina Press, 2016). 

2017 Honorable Mentions: 

Camilo D. Trumper. Ephemeral Histories: Public Art, Politics and the Struggle for the Streets in Chile (University of California Press, 2016). 

Matthew Crawford. The Andean Wonder Drug: Chinchona Bark and Imperial Science in the Spanish Atlantic, 1630-1800 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).

2016 Winner: Victor Uribe-Uran. Fatal Love: Spousal Killers, Law, and Punishment in the Late Colonial Spanish Atlantic (Stanford, 2015). 

2015 Winner: Alan McPherson, The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations (Oxford University Press, 2014).

2014: Gregory T. Cushman, Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

2013: Laura Matthew, Marquette University, Memories of Conquest: Becoming Mexicano in Colonial Guatemala (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012). 

2012: Melina Pappademos, University of Connecticut. Black Political Activism and the Cuban Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011)2011: Richard Graham, University of Texas at Austin (Emeritus). Feeding the City: From Street Market to Liberal Reform in Salvador, Brazil, 1780-1860 (University of Texas Press, 2010)

Honorable mention: Virginia Garrard-Burnett, University of Texas at Austin. Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraín Ríos Montt 1982-1983(Oxford University Press, 2010)

2010: Edward Wright Rios, Vanderbilt University, Revolutions in Mexican Catholicism: Reform and Revelation in Oaxaca, 1887-1934 (Duke University Press, 2009)

2009: Brian Owensby, Empire's Law and Indian Justice in Colonial Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008

2008: Juliana Barr, University of Florida, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman (University of North Carolina Press, 2007)

Honorable Mention: Noble David Cook and Alexandra Parma Cook, Florida International University, PPeople of the Volcano: Andean Counterpoint in the Colca Valley of Peru (Duke University Press, 2007)/span>
2007: Bianca Premo, Children of the Father King:  Youth, Authority, and Legal Minority in Colonial Lima (University of North Carolina Press, 2005)

2005: Babara Ganson. The Guarani Under Spanish Rule in the Rio de la Plata  (Stanford University Press, 2003)

2003: Alejandro de la Fuente. A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001)


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