10 APRIL 1936, Page 25

Spanish America

Historical Evolution of Hispanic America. By J. F. Rippy. (Blackwell. 16s.) IN a little more than 300 pages this book traces the history of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking America from the times of the conquest and colonisation until the present day ; and the value of Professor Rippy is that he is an interpreter of events as well as a narrator. His enormous task of compression has been well done, and the salient facts of the sub-continent's growth are put in a form which ought to be valuable to the student. American students have, however, been his objective ; and they, like their professors, have an attitude to knowledge rather like the attitude of the Moharmnedans to the Koran. One feels that while Professor Rippy has certainly not written a mere handbook, he has written one which almost asks to be learned by heart ; one which will be a useful book of reference, but whose narrative at any given point will need immense amplification. A fair bibliography (drawn, however, as is natural, largely from American publi-

cations) makes this amplification possible. • Inevitably North American writers compare with some complacency the social and economic progress of the northern part of the continent with the backwardness of the southern, forgetting that to the outsider the attractive vices of personal

politics with light opera accompaniment seem to be common to both the Anglo-Saxon and Spanish regions. The most important divergences appear, as Professor Hippy points out, in colonial tradition and the physical environment. In South America there was no frontier spirit because the nature of the country provided no frontier, but a series of isolated settle- ments, and this fitted in only too well with Spain's policy of occupation for adventure, religion and treasure, rather than for trade : "It is also important to note that the areas best adapted to progress are usually located in the highlands of the interior, areas cut off from the coast by swamp and jungle and steaming heat. Among the continental republics, only Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil, which are in the temperate zone, are exeep- tions. Accordingly, there had not been in Latin America, as in the United States, a progressive movement from the coast to the interior. Lr-general, there had been no frontier in the sense which Turner had used the word—no great area of free land to be occupied by the

small farmers moving west in perpetual waves, giving fluidity, creative activity, and increasing energy to American life. Bence, much of the freshness and vigour which our frontier brought was lacking. Instead there were motionless cities with stagnant i■opu- 'aliens, and a slow-changing society almost in a state of crystal- lisation."

The emergence from the colonial period into the national was long and difficult, and the wars of independence encouraged the rise of unemployed military chieftains, who plagued the continent for a great deal of the nineteenth century. Brazil alone escaped the bloodiness of the struggle and its aftermath, and made a, more gradual transition to rough-and-ready democracy ; but a good half of this country was situated in the tropics.

One turns from the long list of political rivals with their coups d'etal and rather obscure party labels to the modern period with sonic relief, because here Professor Hippy is on less well trodden ground. In the earlier pages one was continually reminded of fuller and more vivid narratives. In the last third of the book Professor Hippy goes in some detail into the international period, tells the story of the relation of the growing republics to each other, to the United States, Great Britain and the rest of Europe. At the beginning of the century a time of relative peace and prosperity set in, and during the War the great period of North American financial exploitation started. This came to an end with the slump, and all over the sub-continent one saw the fall of those middle- class dictators who had really been Wall Street's nominees. Unfortunately the book comes to an end in 1982, more or less at the beginning of the trouble, and is not very illuminating on this important crisis. What is seriously missing from this part of the story is anything like an adequate picture or analysis of society ; far too much stress is placed on the financial development and personalities without coupling with this some account of who were being economically developed and what power they acquired. Little is said of working-class movements, and one simply has no idea of lio* the "radicals," &e: are and what they represent.

Inadequate as Professor Rippy's analysis is, it does the useful task of taking the republics one by one. Paraguay, for example, suffered far, far less than Chile. The study of international relations is more thorough. There is a good account of the rivalry of Britain and the U.S. from the time of Canning onwards, and Professor Rippy warns his countrymen that the British willingness to make all the political con- cessions to the U.S. is always done on the tacit understanding of an open-door trade policy. The Germans arc now reported to be at almost their pre-War position. Towards the League of Nations the republics have always vacillated in affection ; on the subject of IIispano-Arnericanism there has been much eloquenee but little of what the pragmatic Professor would call economic results. Why does he expeet them ? Americans should have realised by now that the Southern shyness of Pan-Americanism, and hostility to the United States, arc based on unpragmatic values, and that a true valuation of the development and life of the South ought to stress these much More than Professor Hippy does. Fair enough to perceive that he is dealing with " a country of aristocrats and artiids," he does not allow his material to influence his purely arbitrary sanitation-and-balance-sheet view of history. Still, his is a very adequate text-book for the budding business man. For I suppose the bulk of Professor Hippy's students are hoping to go to South America and sell something.