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Murdo J. Macleod Book Prize

Prize & Past Winners

2022 Contest

Professor Murdo J. MacLeod was a historian of colonial Latin America 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:

Prof. Alejandra Dubcovsky, committee chair
University of California Riverside
(Please contact Professor Dubcovsky for mailing address)

Prof. April J. Mayes
Pomona College
University of North Carolina
Mail to:
Prof. April Mayes
Pomona College
550 N. College Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711

Prof. Matthew Butler
University of Texas - Austin
Mail to:
Prof. Matthew Butler
University of Texas at Austin
128 Inner Campus Dr. B7000
GAR 1.104
Austin, Texas 78712-1739

Prof. Erica Johnson Edwards
Francis Marion University
Mail to:
Prof. Erica Johnson Edwards
Department of History
Francis Marion University
PO Box 100547
Florence, SC 29502

Past Winners

2021 Winner: 
Winner: Cassia Roth, University of Georgia, A Miscarriage of Justice: Women’s Reproductive Lives and the Law in Early Twentieth-Century Brazil.  Stanford: Stanford University Press

In this thoroughly researched and remarkably written study, Cassia Roth examines the role of reproduction in nation-making. She focuses on Brazil during the First Republic, with special attention to its capital, Rio de Janeiro. Even though the new republic rested on democratic ideals and full emancipation, it also supported new forms of social control. A Miscarriage of Justice studies how the state limited citizenship, especially of poor women, by regulating reproduction and fertility. In doing so, Roth argues, the republican state cemented gender and racial biases that sustained the legacy of slavery.

Roth brings together legal and medical sources to analyze women’s experiences of reproductive health. The archival corpus includes 232 police investigations and court cases, almost 300 medical dissertations from the Rio de Janeiro Medical School, and 2,500 clinical reports from Laranjeiras Maternity Hospital. This body of documents enabled Roth to trace not only how authorities construed penal and civil criminality around women’s reproductive bodies, but also how women navigated and resisted regulation. The lives, frustrations, fears, and strength of the people in these documents vividly come to life in the pages of A Miscarriage of Justice.

The medicalization of motherhood was intended to guarantee the survival of the new nation. Authorities such as policymakers, obstetricians, and police officers, therefore, often viewed fertility control and negative reproductive health outcomes as an attack on the nation and tended to construe them as criminal acts. Roth’s analysis moves from the legal and medical ideologies of positivist criminal law and patriarchal civil law through obstetricians’ debates to curb abortions to women’s lived experiences of this legislation in the courtroom. Furthermore, Roth demonstrates that rumor, gossip, and notions of honor played critical roles in women’s decisions about their reproductive health, and fear of denunciations, investigation, or even death kept fertility control in clandestine circles.

A Miscarriage of Justice tells the stories of women that attempted to, and sometimes succeeded in, making decisions about their reproductive bodies in the face of a patriarchal state. With remarkable research, Roth situates women’s reproductive lives and deaths within the larger context of nation-making based on racial and gendered inequality that continued to shaped Brazilian society for decades.

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). 

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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