Argentina has become one of the key morality tales of globalisation: it prospered, the story goes, by embracing liberalism in the late nineteenth century; it faltered due to the disruption caused to the global economy by the two world wars and the Great Depression; finally, it definitively declined after the Second World War when, under Juan Perón, it turned its back on liberal ideals. Embrace liberalism or perish is the moral of the story.
Yet an older tradition in Argentina’s historiography suggests quite a different story. Prior to the onset of the ‘second globalisation’ in the 1970s, there was a far more pessimistic consensus among historians about Argentina during its liberal era at the beginning of the twentieth century. Rather, some parts of the country expanded, but others stagnated, while landowners accumulated wealth, but workers did not see parallel improvements in their living standards. The impression of Argentina as a prosperous country is therefore based only on the experience of some regions and social classes.
The first stage of this project aims to revitalise this pessimistic historiography by reinforcing it with new quantitative data, while placing it within the context of an original metanarrative of global divergence during the long nineteenth century.
So far, five publications are in the works. They include four papers, and a book entitled Argentina in the Long Nineteenth Century: A Total History, which will combine elements of the articles with a more detailed analysis of the relationship between globalisation and the ‘great divergence’ between rich and poor countries.
The project draws on my doctoral research at the London School of Economics, which was partly financed by the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council. Subsequent research will extend the narrative through the twentieth century.