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March 31, 2017 | History

Charles Gibson

2 August 1920 - 22 August 1985

Charles Gibson (2 August 1920 - 22 August 1985)

Charles Gibson was professor of Latin American history at the University of Michigan, who studied the Nahua peoples of colonial Mexico.

Charles was the son of William W. (1885) and Helen J. Gibson (1900), born on 2 August 1920 in Bethlehem, Albany, New York, USA. His elder brother, also William W. was born a year earlier and he had a younger brother Edward J. born two years after him.

During the late forties he went to University of Texas and got his Masters degree there in 1947 and three years later worked on his thesis at Yale University under the directorship of George Kubler. On gaining his Doctorate in Philosophy he joined the history faculty as professor at the University of Iowa (1949-1965). In 1965 he then became professor of history at University of Michigan until he retired thirty years later.

He published his most significant works - Tlaxcala in the Sixteenth Century in 1952 and Aztecs Under Spanish Rule in 1964.

"Perhaps more than any other historian of his time, [Charles] shed light on indigenous life in colonial New Spain. While his first book, Tlaxcala in the Sixteenth Century, is not focused on Mexico City, it plays an important role in the overall historiography of Mesoamerican social history. By using a wide range of sources, he demonstrated that the indigenous government of Tlaxcala had not been subsumed by Spanish dictates, but rather had adopted aspects of Spanish culture and altered them to fit its needs".

During 1971 he took his sabbatical year in an attempt to catch up with various projects and took his family to wife to Spain for four months with a and plan to search various archives looking into the question of Christian-Moslem relations, as antecedents and precedents for patterns of Christian-Indian relations in the New World. He much admired the work of French historian Jacques Lafay (born the same year as himself) and wrote to him saying:

"Your magnificent, very impressive four volumes of Quetzalcoatl et Guadalupe arrived in the late summer when I was away from home, on leave, and I have them on my desk ready to examine seriously as soon as I am home again for good".

A few years later he was appointed the Henry Russel Lecturer, at that time the university's highest honor for a senior faculty member (1977). In December he delivered a Presidential address at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) in Dallas.

When Charles retired his mother Helen was still living in Albany, New York as was his two brother Edward J. (in East Greenbush) but his elder brother William W. was in Amherst, Massachusetts. At the time he lived with his wife in Keeseville, New York not far from his sons Charles (3rd) of Elizabethtown, and George of Chazy. His other children, daughter Judith Green lived in Ottawa, Illinois and son Mark in Burlington, Vermont.

Charles did not survive and of his family (save his father) when he died aged sixty-five on 22 August 1985 at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburg, New York.


  • Inca Concept of Sovereignty and the Spanish Administration in Peru (1948)
  • Aztecs Under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico (1964)
  • Spain in America (New American Nation Series: 1966)
  • The Spanish Tradition in America (New York, 1968), pp.135-36.
  • Black Legend: Anti-Spanish Attitudes in the Old World and the New (1971)
  • Conquest, Capitulation, and Indian Treaties. American Historical Review (1978)


  1. United States Census
  2. Letter from C. Gibson to J. Lafaye (December 1971)
  3. Presidential address. The American Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 1. (Feb., 1978), pp. 1-15.
  4. New York Times obituaries (September 1985)
  5. Frank Iván, Relations, Bowl. VII, Núm. 27,1986, p. 125-140
  6. Chevalier, François. The Hispanic American Historical Review (May 1986) 66 (2): 349–351
  7. Lincoln A. Draper, Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writings, p. 463-464
  8. James Lockhart, Etnohistoria of the Center of Mexico, in Enrique Florescano, Ricardo Perez Monfort, Historians of Mexico of century XX, Mexico, Bottom of Economic Culture, 1995

Note: the same title 'Spain in America' has been used by other authors - Edward Gaylord Bourne (published 1904); Doris King Arjona (published 1940); Richard L. Kagan (2002)

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March 31, 2017 Edited by Clean Up Bot add VIAF and wikidata ID
April 18, 2012 Edited by J Gill added biog and dates
April 17, 2012 Edited by J Gill merge authors
April 29, 2008 Created by an anonymous user initial import