Revolution in the Countryside

Rural Conflict and Agrarian Reform in Guatemala, 1944-1954

By Jim Handy

284 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4438-0
    Published: April 1994
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6189-9
    Published: November 2000

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Although most discussions of the Guatemalan "revolution" of 1944-54 focus on international and national politics, Revolution in the Countryside presents a more complex and integrated picture of this decade. Jim Handy examines the rural poor, both Maya and Ladino, as key players who had a decisive impact on the nature of change in Guatemala. He looks at the ways in which ethnic and class relations affected government policy and identifies the conflict generated in the countryside by new economic and social policies. Handy provides the most detailed discussion yet of the Guatemalan agrarian reform, and he shows how peasant organizations extended its impact by using it to lay claim to land, despite attempts by agrarian officials and the president to apply the law strictly. By focusing on changes in rural communities, and by detailing the coercive measures used to reverse the "revolution in the countryside" following the overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, Handy provides a framework for interpreting more recent events in Guatemala, especially the continuing struggle for land and democracy.

About the Author

Jim Handy, professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan, is author of Gift of the Devil: A History of Guatemala.

For more information about Jim Handy, visit the Author Page.


"A thoroughgoing, archivally based treatment of agrarian reform. . . . An important and engaging study of an immensely complicated subject."--American Historical Review

"An extensively researched, penetrating study of one of the most fascinating episodes in modern Latin America, Guatemala's October Revolution, 1944-54."--Journal of Third World Studies

"A fine and careful piece of scholarship on a period of immense social change and political uncertainty. It provides a balanced and detailed picture of one of the most important and complex periods in recent Latin American history. . . . This is a first-rate work, even more welcome because it is long overdue."--Richard N. Adams, University of Texas at Austin

"Likely to become the standard treatment of Guatemala's 1952-54 land reform and of the political and social conflict that surrounded it. Based on previously untapped material and offering a range of new interpretations, [this book] is essential to understanding the violence that has rent that country for the past forty years."--David McCreery, Georgia State University