Primary and Secondary Sources for the Study of Mexican History

Prepared by Guillermo Náñez Falcón
January 1999. Last updated: March 20, 2003.

Tulane University's Latin American Library houses one of the finest collections in the United States of primary and secondary materials relating to Mexico. For the colonial period, there are unique holdsings of Indian painted manuscripts, several thousand original manuscript volumes and dossiers, photocopies, microfilms, and transcripts of hundreds of documents in archives in Mexico and Spain. There are two dozen sixteenth-century Mexican incunables, the earliest examples of printing in the New World, as well as more than a thousand volumes from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries are equally well represented with manuscript collections of Mexican families and United States diplomats, satirical broadsides,, law books, ministry reports, an dother government publications, censuses, newspapers, political and popular journals, personal memoirs, and other materials, as well as microfilms of the U.S. Department of State files on Mexico. In addition there are historically important collections of photographs, maps, and rubbings of Mayan relief sculpture. Since the 1920s, the Library every year has acquired the vast majority of secondary works being published on Mexican history and culture. The collection encompasses 70-80,000 monographs by the leading scholars from Mexico, the United States, and Europe and dozens of scholarly journals relating to Mexican history. The following is a partial list of the Library's collections of colonial and independence-period Mexican manuscripts. Each collection has a detailed inventory and other finding aids to facilitate access by researchers. In addition to these large collections, there are small collections and individual documents too numerous to list separately.

  • Viceregal and Ecclesiastical Mexican Collection
    1534-1820. More than 3,000 dossiers. The documents originated in the offices of the Viceroy, the Royal Audiencia, and the bishops of New Spain and include church records and inventories, censuses, notarial files, laws and decrees, civil and ecclesiastical suits, land disputes, and Indian affairs.
  • Mexican Administrative Papers
    1541-1865. 317 manuscript volumes. The records are principally of the Ecclesiastical Cabildo, the Real Audiencia, and the Real Hacienda of New Spain and notarial volumes from the city of Puebla.
  • Chiapas Collection
    1723-1927. 420 items and 44 volumes. The collection includes documentation on church and political affairs, the conversion of the Lacandón Indians, a Chamula uprising, folk medicine and other topics. The volumes are nineteenth- and twentieth-century laws and decrees, statistical reports, and newspapers.
  • Yucatán Collection
    1557-1880. 267 items. This is a collection of documents in Spanish and Maya. Of particular note are several dossiers of documents relating to land claims of Indian municipalities, including the 1557 Crónica de Maní, the Crónica de Yaxcucul, the Crónica de Chicxulub, and the Juan Píi Pérez copy of the lost San Francisco Spanish/Maya-Maya/Spanish dictionary.
  • William Gates Yucatán Letters
    1778-1863. 960 pieces. These are letters from the Captain General in Mérida on administrative affairs, defense, and Gulf traffic.
  • William Gates Collection
    1590-1863. 1,068 items. The collection includes Mexican manuscripts and prpinted ephemera with Indian, Viceregal, early Republic, and Mexican Revolution documents. Of special interest are papers of the Moctezuma family (1778-1866).
  • Gordoa Family Papers
    1822-1846. 747 pieces. The collection relates to personal matters and to the political and mining interests of the Gordoa family of Zacatecas.
  • Porter Cornelius Bliss Papers
    1870-1885. 425 pieces. The collection consists of documents collected by Bliss during the time that he was Secretary of the United States Legation in Mexico and relates to U.S.-Mexican relations.
  • Nicolás León Collection
    ca. 1550-ca. 1940. 3.7 cubic feet. The collection contains original documents collected by the Mexican ethnohistorian for his research and his personal manuscripts and correspondence, as well as maps, photographs, and drawings.
  • Rudolf Schuller Papers
    1914-1930. More than 2,000 pieces. Schuller was an Austrian-born ethnolinguistic-anthropologist who worked among the Huasteca Indians of Mexico. The collection includes personal and professional corespondence, notes, vocabulary lists, manuscripts, photographs, and printed ephemera.
  • France V. Scholes Collection
    1500s-1700s. 277,000 pieces. The collection consists of photocopies, microfilms, notes, and typescripts of documents in archives in Mexico and Spain relating to colonial Mexico. There is extensive documentation on Fernando Cortés.
  • Richard E. Greenleaf 18th-Century Ecclesiastical Mexican Collection
    24,421 pages of transcriptions of 483 Mexican colonial documents. The transcriptions are of original Mexican Inquisition documents in the Archivo de Indias in Seville and in the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City. In the near future, the Library will receive transcriptions of 16th- and 17th-century Inquisition documents.
  • Fernando Horcasitas Collection
    1940-1980. 6,200 items and 2,300 note cards. Horcasitas was a noted Mexican ethnohistorian and Náhuatl specialist. The collection consists of personal and business papers, published works, drafts, research and field notes, and texts of Náhuatl plays and stories.
  • Martha and Donald Robertson Collection
    1940s-1984. 40.6 cubic feet. The papers are of the noted Mexicanist and art historian and his wife. Included are correspondence with colleagues throughout the world, research materials on pre-Columbian and early colonial Mexican Indian pictorial manuscripts, photographs, microfilms, notes, drafts, and published works.
  • Lewis Hanke Papers
    1935-1985. 45 cubic feet. The collection consists of the professional correspondence of this well-known Latin American historian,with much material relating ot Fray Bartolomé de las Casas.
  • Seymour B. Liebman Collection
    1573-1790; 1874-1889; 1915-1986. 700 pieces. There are seventeen bound volumes of transcriptions of Inquisition documents, mostly from Mexico and Peru, and recent documentation on Jews in Mexico and South America.