Publication Date

May 1, 2006

Perspectives Section

In Memoriam

Barbara Hadley Stein, historian and bibliographer of Latin America and Iberia, whose career in the Luso-Hispanic world spanned seven decades, died at her Princeton, New Jersey, home December 9, 2005, at the age of 89.

A formidable intellectual from a New England family dating back to the 17th century, her international perspective developed early through her pre-college education in the International School (Switzerland), Odenvald School (Germany), the Concord Academy in Massachusetts, and the final years of high school in Pennsylvania at the Quaker's George School. At Smith College she was graduated magna cum laude, class of 1938, in Spanish and Latin American history and counted among her mentors Vera Brown Holmes. Her graduate study was at the University of California at Berkeley where she completed her MA thesis on Peru’s oldest political party APRA. For her dissertation research on the abolition of slavery in Brazil she received a Cordell Hull Fellowship of the U.S. State Department for fieldwork in 1940. During the next three years she conducted research on the social and political dimensions of abolitionism, doing archival work in Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. Contact then with Arthur Ramos and Melville and Frances Herskovitz influenced her approach to history and ethnography. After marrying Stanley J. Stein, a Harvard University history graduate student she had met in Rio de Janeiro, she returned to Brazil in 1948–49 and 1951.

Stein's empirical sense of Latin America also developed through her experience of teaching in a rural primary school in Michoacán, Mexico, working in a California cannery, taking the 1940 census in California, and during World War II serving as a labor economist in the Department of Labor and later in Nelson Rockefeller's Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in Washington, D.C. Her insights on the powerless and powerful that came through these positions helped shape her perspectives and taught her the importance of careful listening and critical reading of documentation.

Stein was Princeton University's first bibliographer for Latin America, Spain and Portugal, serving 1966–77. Although the university had collected Latin Americana since the 18th century, and had made some intensive efforts thereafter to secure fundamental sources, it was Barbara Stein who systematically assessed the collections, established policies and priorities, and turned her scholarly mind to identifying current and retrospective works for the collections in the social sciences and humanities. She brought to the position familiarity with Latin American countries as well as those in Europe, and her interests in developing collections broadly anticipated the interdisciplinary research of today. Among her publications as a bibliographer is Latin America: A Guide to Sources in the Princeton University Library (Princeton, N.J.: The Library, 1977). Never one to be limited by short-term thinking, she sought primary sources, including ephemera, as well as leading scholarly works regardless of ideological position or current fashion in curriculum or research. Over the years Mrs. Stein attended annual conferences of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials and participated in the organization’s work. She advanced the cause of Iberian collections and acquisitions as fundamental for understanding Latin America’s past and present, and was an early advocate for cooperative microfilming of scarce materials that evolved into the Latin American Microform Project of the Center for Research Libraries.

In the best of the long international tradition of erudite bibliographers, Barbara Stein knew what to select because she read widely, debated ideas, and viewed with skepticism the political and intellectual fads that influenced some in the academy. This broad conspectus and her bibliographical skills made her useful to graduate students, especially in history and politics. Her intellectual prowess, meticulous selection of research materials, and broad commitment to Latin American studies contributed significantly to the overall development of Latin American area research and curriculum at Princeton University. From this stance emerged one of her books co-authored with her husband: The Colonial Heritage of Latin America; Essays on Economic Dependence in Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970). The volume’s dedication reveals her moral compass: “To those Iberians and Ibero-Americans who have had the courage to speak out against irrationality and injustice.”

Throughout her varied career as a scholar, wife, and mother, Barbara Stein never strayed far from her passion to understand the economic and political forces behind the formation of Spain's empire and the trials and travails of the administration of colonial peoples and possessions. Upon departure from her work at the Princeton University Library, she returned to full-time research and writing, and co-authored with her husband Silver, Trade, and War; Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000) and Apogee of Empire; Spain and New Spain in the Age of Charles III, 1759–1789 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003). Several more volumes are near completion, including her “The Road to Bayonne and Beyond,” an analysis of the Napoleonic invasion in Spain 1808–10.

Mrs. Stein is survived by her husband, Stanley J. Stein, Princeton University's Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor in Spanish Civilization and Culture, emeritus, Margot Stein of Chapel Hill, Peter Stein of Philadelphia, and Joelle Stein, Esq., of Belmont, Massachusetts.

Princeton University

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.