Skip to main content

The Tarlton Law Library is open at this time with access limited to current UT Law students, faculty, and staff. Members of the UT Austin community unaffiliated with the law school may contact the Circulation Desk (, 512-471-7726) for assistance with accessing library resources. Online reference services are also available. Please see the Tarlton Reopening FAQs and the Texas Law Fall 2020 Reopening Plan for additional details

Tarlton Law Library logo Texas Law Home Tarlton Law Library Home
Today's Operating Hours:
Aztec and Maya Law


This bibliography provides coverage of representative works on Aztec and Maya law, post-Conquest indigenous law, and Aztec and Maya history. Please note that this bibliography is not exhaustive. For purposes of Maya law, this bibliography focuses on works that apply to the ancient Maya who lived in what is now the southern and Yucatan region of Mexico. A discussion of Guatemalan Maya jurisprudence and legal history is beyond the scope of this bibliography.

The following sources were consulted in the preparation of this bibliography: TALLONS, the Tarlton Law Library's online catalog; the UT Libraries online catalog; the Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS); the Hispanic American Periodical Index; the Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC); OCLC Worldcat; and legal history journals published in the United States and Latin America.

Mexican and Pre-Columbian Legal History: General Works

Bonifaz, Miguel. Derecho Indiano: Derecho Castellano, Derecho Precolumbiano, Derecho Colonial. 2nd ed. Sucre: Universidad Mayor de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca, 1960 [i.e. 1961].

Carranca y Trujillo, Raul, Ruben Delgado Moya, and Josef Kohler. Antologia Juridical Mexicana. México, D.F.: Industrias Graficas Unidas, 1992.

Cruz Barney, Oscar. Historia del Derecho en México. México, D.F.: Oxford University Press, 1999.

This textbook on Mexican legal history has an opening chapter on indigenous prehispanic law which covers the Olmecs, Aztecs and Maya. The Maya section discusses social classes, family law, and criminal law. The more extensive section on the Aztecs covers socio-political organization, the reliance on punishment, the court system, family law, land tenure, and slavery. The bibliography contains a wide range of sources.

Durand Alcántara, Carlos Humberto, ed. El Derecho al Desarrollo Social. Una Visión desde el Multiculturalismo. El Caso de los Pueblos Indígenas. México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 2008.

Esquivel Obregón, Toribio. Apuntes para la Historia del Derecho en México. 2nd ed. 2 vols. México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 1984.

Esquivel Obregón's broad study of Mexican legal history includes a section on Aztec law. While his fellow legal historians looked at Aztec law as merely a curiosity of the past, Esquivel Obregón insisted that its study was indispensible to understanding the true nature of Mexican legal culture.

González, María del Refugio. Historia Del Derecho Mexicano. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, 1983.

A brief section on "El substrato indígena" (pp. 12-20) concentrates primarily on public law, covering not only the Aztecs and Maya but also the Tarascans and the Chichimec tribes of the arid north, and relies on a few well-chosen secondary sources.

Guier, Jorge Enrique. Derecho Precolombino. San José, Costa Rica: Libro Libre, 1991.

The author's stated purpose is to describe the legal systems in Central America before the Spanish conquest, and to compare these with the legal systems of the Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, and Caribbean Indians.

Hassig, Ross, and Ronald Spores, eds. Five Centuries of Law and Politics in Central Mexico. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University, 1984.

Several essays in this anthology discuss Aztec legal and political structures, as well as the participation of indigenous peoples in colonial politics and litigation. They include Jerome Offner, "The Distribution of Jurisdiction and Political Power in Aztec Texcoco: Subgroups in Conflict"; Ross Hassig, "The Aztec Empire: A Reappraisal"; Susan Kellogg, "Aztec Women in Early Colonial Courts: Structure and Strategy in a Legal Context"; and S. L. Cline, "A Legal Process at the Local Level: Estate Division in Late Sixteenth-Century Culhuacan."

Macedo, Miguel S. Apuntes para la Historia del Derecho Penal Mexicano. México, D.F.: Editorial Cultura, 1931.

Mendieta y Núñez, Lucio. El Derecho Precolonial. 6th ed. México: Editorial Porrúa, 1992.

Margadant S., Guillermo Floris. Introducción a la Historia Derecho Mexicano. 18th ed. Naucalpan, Estado de México: Editorial Esfinge, 2001.

The 1983 edition of this book was translated into English - Margadant S., Guillermo Floris. An Introduction to the History of Mexican Law. 3rd ed. Translated by Willem Floris Margadant. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1983.

Morales Benitez, Otto. Derecho Precolombino: Raíz del Nacional y del Continental. Bogota, Colombia: Academia Colombiana de Jurisprudencia, 2007.

Sánchez Vázquez, Rafael. Génesis y Desarollo de la Cultura Jurídica Mexicana. México, D.F.: Editorial Porruúa, 2001.

The first chapter of this book contains brief notes on legal education in pre-Conquest Mexico and relies heavily on Esquivel Obregín's Apuntes.

Aztec and Maya Legal History

Alba Hermosillo, Carlos H. Estudio Comparado Entre el Dereceho Azteca y el Derecho Positivo Mexicano. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto Indigenista Interamericano, 1949. (Author's Thesis.)

The author reorganizes Aztec law within an artificial framework of European law codes, and then compares each Aztec law with analogous provisions in modern Mexican law. This book is useful as a classified summary of Aztec law, but draws no conclusions from the similarities or contradictions of this law.

Almazan, Marco A. "The Aztec States-Society: Roots of Civil Society and Social Capital." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 565 (Sept. 1999): 162-175.

Ávalos, Francisco. "An Overview of the Legal System of the Aztec Empire." Law Library Journal 86, no. 2 (Spring 1994): 259-276.

This article is one of the most thorough English-language overviews of the Aztec legal system, and has sections on the government structure, the legal system, and areas of substantive law including criminal law, family law, property, commercial law, and international law.

Bahamondes Fuentes, Delfin. El Derecho en la Civilización Maya. Santiago: Editorial Jurídica de Chile, 1973.

Bialostosky, Sara. "Condición Juridíca y Social de la Mujer Azteca." In Condición Jurídica, Política y Social de la Mujer en México, edited by Sara Bialostosky, 1-14. México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 2005.

Buitrago, Edgardo. El Derecho y el Estado Precolombino en General y Especialmente en Nicaragua. León, Nicaragua: Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Sociales, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, Núcleo de León, 1983.

Carrasco, Pedro. Estructura Político-Territorial del Imperio Tenochca: la Triple Alianza de Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, y Tlacopan. México, D.F.: El Colegio de México, 1996.

Carter, Robert F. "The Amazing Aztec Jurisprudence." American Bar Association Journal 50 (July 1964): 667-69.

Ceballos Novelo, Roque J. "Las Instituciones Aztecas: Algunas Consideraciones Sobre su Origen, Carácter y Evolución." Anales del Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Historia y Etnografía 2, no. 5 (1937): 279-304.

Chellet Díaz, Eugenio. El Derecho Tributario en la Nación Azteca. México, 1962. (Author's Thesis - Universidad Iberoamericana.)

Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio, and Todd Landman. "Evolution of Maya Polities in the Ancient Mesoamerican System." International Studies Quarterly 43, no. 4 (Dec. 1999): 559-598.

Dary, Claudia. El Derecho Internacional Humanitario y el Orden Jurídico Maya: Una Perspectiva Histórico-Cultural. Guatemala: FLACSO, 1997.

The opening chapter of this book focuses on ancient Mayan laws and codes regarding the conduct of warfare and their relevance to the modern civil strife between Mayan peasants and the Guatemalan state. Published in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Díaz Vasconcelos, Luis Antonio. Norma e Institución Jurídicas Mayas. Guatemala: Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, 1953.

This book is one of the most thorough works on the Mayan legal system. It relies heavily on Spanish chroniclers, Mayan writings from the colonial period such as the Chilam Balam, and Sylvanus Morley, an early pioneer in Maya studies.

Díaz Vasconcelos, Luis Antonio. "Tres Aspectos de la Convivencia Jurídica del Maya." Anales de la Sociedad de Geografía e Historia de Guatemala 25, no. 3 (September 1951): 206-224.

Esquit Choy, Edgar, & Carlos Ochoa García, eds. El Respeto a la Palabra: El Orden Jurídico del Pueblo Maya. Iximulew, Guatemala: Centro de Estudios de la Cultura Maya, 1995.

García Ruiz, Alfonso. "El Derecho Premial entre los Mayas y los Chibchas." In Estudios Históricos Americanos: Homenaja a Silvio Zavala, ed. México: El Colegio de México, 1953.

Garraty, Christopher P. "Aztec Teotihuacan: Political Processes at a Postclassic and Early Colonial City-State in the Basin of Mexico." Latin American Antiquity 17, no. 4 (Dec. 2006): 363-87.

Gayosso y Nararrete, Mercedes. "Causas que Determinaron la Ausencia de la Adopción en el Derecho Azteca." In Memoria del IV Congreso de Historia del Derecho Mexicano, 1986, edited by Beatriz Bernal, 383-397, vol. 1. México, D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1988.

Gayosso y Navarrete, Mercedes. "Naturaleza Religioso-Jurídica de la Institución del Matrimonio en el Derecho Nahuatl." Revista de Estudios Histórico-Jurídicos 18 (1996): 421-440.

This article is a study of marriage in Aztec law as a legal and religious institution.

Gilissen, John, ed. Introduction Bibliographique à L'Histoire du Droit et à L'Ethnologie Juridique / Bibliographical Introduction to Legal History and Ethnology. 9 vols. Brussels: Institut de Sociologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1963-1988 (loose-leaf, continuously updated).

Although somewhat dated, this series includes legal bibliographies on the Aztecs and Mayans, Mexico, and Colonial Spanish America. Most entries in this series include annotations and commentary.

Guerrero Castillo, Julian N., and Lola Soriano de Guerrero. Derecho Aborigen en Centroamérica y el Caribe. Managua, Nicaragua: Editora Central, 1965.

This book contains a summary of references to Aztec and Mayan legal institutions from Spanish chroniclers such as Torquemada, Landa, Sahagún, and Morley.

Hernández Rodríguez, Régulo. Organización Política, Social, Económica y Jurídica de los Aztecas. México, 1939.

Herrera, Jose Israel. "Algunas Caracteristicas del Derecho Maya Prehispanico." In Aproximaciones a la Antropologia Juridica de los Mayas Peninsulares, edited by Esteban Krotz. Merida, México: Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, 2001.

Izquierdo, Ana Luisa. "El Derecho Penal entre los Antiguos Mayas." Estudios de Cultura Maya 11 (1978): 215-247.

Kohler, Josef. El Derecho de los Aztecas. Traducido por Carlos Rovalo y Fernández. Mexico, D.F.: Compañia Editora Latino Americana, 1924.

A new edition of this book was published in 2002 by the Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito Federal, Direcciín General de Anales de Jurisprudencia y Boletíín Judicial in Mexico City.

Kohler, Josef. "El Derecho Penal de los Aztecas." Revista Americana de Buenos Aires 15, no. 165 (1938).

Krotz, Esteban. Aproximaciones a la Antropología Jurídica de los Mayas Peninsulares. Mérida, Yucatán: PNUD, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, 2001.

This book discusses contemporary Maya law and jurisprudence, and includes a chapter on pre-Conquest law by Jose Israel Herrera entitled, "Algunas caracteristicas del derecho maya prehispanico."

Lima, Maria de la Luz. "Control social en México-Tenochtitlán." In Estudios Jurídicos en Homenaje al Maestro Guillermo Floris Margadant. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México 1988.

This article is a study of both both formal and informal means of Aztec social control, including social norms, education, and legal sanctions. The article includes a good bibliography.

López Austin, Alfredo. La Constitución Real de México-Tenochtitlan. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Seminario de Cultura Nahuatl, 1961.

"General survey of the sociopolitical, legal, economic, educational, and ecclesiastical aspect[s] of Tenochtitlan...Noteworthy principally for its greater utilization of Nahuatl textual material than any previous study." -- Handbook of Latin American Studies

Moncayo Rodríguez, Socorro. "Consideraciones en Torno a la Esclavitud Entre los Aztecas." In Memoria del IV Congreso de Historia del Derecho Mexicano, 1986, Vol. 2, edited by Beatriz Bernal, 793-809. México, D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1988.

Noyola Arriaga, Alicia. Breve Examen de las Disposiciones Penales de la Legislación Maya. México, 1964.

Offner, Jerome A. Law And Politics in Aztec Texcoco. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Pérez Galaz, Juan de Dios. Derecho y Organización Social de los Mayas. México, D.F.: Editorial Diana, 1983.

Rivera, Roberto. "El Derecho Maya Según Landa." Boletin del INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) 22, no. 3 (Apr.- June 1978): 27-35.

Romero Vargas e Yturbide, Ignacio. Organización Política de los Pueblos de Anahuac. México: Libros Luciernaga, 1957.

This book includes a study of the constitutional law of the Aztecs.

Rounds, J. "The Role of the Tecuhtli in Ancient Aztec Society." Ethnohistory 24, no. 4 (1977): 343-361.

Salcedo Flores, Antonio. "El Derecho Maya Prehispánico, un Acercamiento a su Fundamentación Socio-Politica." Alegatos - Revista Jurídica de la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana 71 (Jan. - April 2009): 155-178.

Sandoval Pardo, Fernando R. Historia Crítica del Estado Mexicano: Análisis Estructural y Superestructural de los Estados Azteca, Novohispano e Independiente, 1325-1911. México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 2001.

Sandoval Pardo, Fernando R. El Sistema Jurídico Maya: Una Aproximación. Guatemala: Universidad Rafael Landivar, Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales, 1998.

This book is a study of the legal system in the modern Maya communities of Guatemala. It includes a useful review of the literature, including a summary of Díaz Vasconcelos' Norma e Institución Jurídicas Mayas (see above), and also refers to pre-Conquest Mayan law.

Sodi Bonequi, María Enriqueta. La Tierra y el Derecho Entre Los Mayas. México, 1962.

Seus, John M. "Aztec law." American Bar Association Journal 55 (August 1969): 736-739.

Toscano, Salvador. Derecho y Organización Social de los Aztecas. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional de México, 1937.

Trueba Urbina, Alberto. Historia Sintetica del Derecho Maya. San Ildefonso, Mexico, D.F.: La Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Sociales, 1930.

Zion, James W., and Robert Yazzie. "Indigenous Law in North America in the Wake of Conquest." Boston College International and Comparative Law Review 20, no. 1 (1997):55–84.

Primary Sources of Aztec and Maya Law and History

Alvarado, Pedro de. An Account of the Conquest of Guatemala in 1524. Translated by Sidley J. Mackie. Boston: Milford House, 1972.

Anders, Ferdinand et al., eds. Codex Matrícula de Tributos (Codex Moctezuma). Graz, Austria, and México: Akademische Druck und Verlagsantalt/Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1997.

Berdan, Frances F., and Patricia Reiff Anawalt, eds. The Codex Mendoza. 4 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

"Highly important pictorial manuscript prepared (ca. 1541) by Indian artist for Viceroy Mendoza was deposited in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Consists of 71 folios depicting Aztec conquests, tribute lists, and ethnographic data. Impeccable scholarship and excellent drawings characterize this luxurious edition of a primary source for the study of prehispanic Central Mexico." -- HLAS. This book additionally includes several depictions of Aztec courts and crimes. The editors have also published a one-volume abridgment, The Essential Codex Mendoza, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill, ed. Painted Books and Indigenous Knowledge in Mesoamerica: Manuscript Studies in Honor of Mary Elizabeth Smith. New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute, 2005.

This book includes an analysis of various Aztec and Mayan codices, including the Madrid and Dresden Codices.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

"[Boone] takes the reader through dozens of central Mexican and Oaxacan manuscripts... At the end, the reader not only knows what is in any given manuscript, according to Boone's reading, but also how to find one's own way through a manuscript." -- Hispanic American Historical Review

Bricker, Victoria, and Gabrielle Vail, eds. Papers on the Madrid Codex. New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute, 1997.

Cervantes de Salazar, Francisco. Crónica de la Nueva España (1558). Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1983.

Cogolludo, Diego López. Historía de Yucatán. Madrid: 1688.

Cortés, Hernán. Letters from México (1521–1526). Translated and edited by Anthony Pagden. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1986.

Craine, Eugene R., and Reginald C. Reindrop. The Codex Pérez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Maní. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.

Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. La Verdadera Historia de la Conquista de México (1568). México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 1993.

Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. The Conquest of New Spain. Translated by J. M. Cohen. London: Penguin Books, 1963.

Durán, Fray Diego. Historia de las Indias de Nueva España y Islas de Tierra Firme (1579–1581). México: Editorial Porrúa, 1967.

Durán, Fray Diego. The History of the Indies of New Spain. Translated by Doris Heyden. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

Echeagaray, José Ignacio. Códice Mendocino, ó, Coleccion de Mendoza: Manuscrito Mexicano del Siglo XVI que se Conserva en la Biblioteca Bodleiana de Oxford. México: San Angel Ediciones, 1979.

The Codex Mendoza manuscript is housed at the Bodleian Library, and is "a pictorial history of the Aztec empire from 1325 to 1521; an illustrated catalogue of the annual tribute paid by the towns of the empire to the last emperor, Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Montezuma II); and an illustrated account of Aztec life-cycles, male and female, from birth to death." -- Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Edmonson, Munro S. Sixteenth-Century Mexico: The Work of Sahagún. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974.

García Icazbalceta, Joaquín. Nueva Colección de Documentos para la Historia de México. 5 vols. México: Andrade y Morales, sucesores, 1886-92.

This work includes a discussion of the work of the Franciscan order in New Spain, including a biographical sketch and the letters of Father Gerónimo de Mendieta. The accounts and codices of members of religious orders are an important source of information about Aztec law and culture.

Hironymous, Michael O. Mesoamerican Codices.. Austin: Benson Latin American Collection, The University of Texas at Austin, March 1991.

This imprint is No. 59 in the Benson Collection's "Biblionoticias" series. It contains annotated references to published reproductions of 61 Mesoamerican codices and is available online.

Klor de Alva, José Jorge, Henry B. Nicholson, and Eloise Quiñones Keber. The Work of Bernardino de Sahagún: Pioneer Ethnographer of Sixteenth-Century Aztec Mexico. Albany, N.Y.: Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, 1988.

Landa, Diego de. Relación de las cosas de Yucatán. Translated and annotated by Alfred M. Tozzer. Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, vol. 18. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1941.

Landa (1524-1579), a Franciscan who became bishop of Yucatan, is famous for his account of ancient Maya culture and infamous for having orchestrated the destruction of Mayan manuscripts.

Landa, Diego de. Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán. México: Porrúa, 1959.

Introduction by Ángel M. Garibay K. Reprinted numerous times (1966, 1973, 1978, and 1986). "[The 1959 edition is] [e]ssentially a new edition of the Pérez Martínez edition of 1938, without the notes, plus a new introduction. Completely lacking in annotations or footnotes, the present edition nonetheless provides one of the best versions of the original Spanish text and includes all the illustrations. The inclusion of the 12 supplementary documents containing information relevant to early Yucatan, which appeared in the Pérez Martínez edition, enhances considerably the value of this latest addition to the Landa bibliography." -- HLAS

Landa, Diego de. Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. Translated by William Gates. Mérida, México: Editorial San Fernando, 1987.

This book is an English language translation of Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán.

Las Casas, fray Bartolomé de. Los indios de México y Nueva Easpaña, antología. 6th ed. México: Editorial Porrúa, 1987.

Las Casas, Bartolomé de. A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Translated and edited by Nigel Griffin. London: Penguin Books, 1992.

López Cogolludo, fray Diego. Historia de Yucatán. Colección "Grandes Crónicas Mexicanas." México: Editorial Academia Literaria, 1957.

Motolinia (Fray Toribio de Benavente). Memoriales o Libro de las Cosas de la Nueva España y de los Naturales de Ella. Appendix by Edmundo O’Gorman. México: UNAM, 1971.

Motolinia (Fray Toribio de Benavente). History of the Indians of New Spain. Translated by Elizabeth Andros Foster. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977.

Robertson, Donald. Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period. The Metropolitan Schools. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

Roys, Ralph L. The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel. Reprint of 1933 edition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967.

Sahagún, Bernardino de. General History of the Things of New Spain: Florentine Codex. Edited and translated by Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. 12 vols. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1950-1982.

Sahagún, (d. 1590), a Franciscan missionary, made extensive use of Indian informants to compile a monumental encyclopedia of Aztec society and culture, an ethnohistory considered to be centuries ahead of its time. The original Nahuatl text and English translation are presented in parallel columns.

Sahagún, Bernardino de. Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España; Codice Florentino (1540-1577). Edited by Alfredo López Austin and Josefina García Quintana. México, D.F.: CONACULTA, 2000.

Sahagún, Bernardino de. Primeros memoriales. Paleography of Nahuatl text and English translation by Thelma Sullivan. 2 vols. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993–98.

Thompson, J. Eric S. A Commentary on the Dresden Codex. American Philosophical Society Memoir 93. Philadelphia, 1972.

Van Doesburg, Geert Bustiaan. Codex Ixtlilxochitl. Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck und Verlagsanstalt, 1996.

Indigenous Law in the Colonial Era and Beyond

Altamira, Rafael. Manual de investigación de la historia del derecho indiano. México, D.F.: Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia, 1948.

Antropología Jurídica. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1995.

This publication includes several essays on law and anthropology, international recognition of indigenous legal systems, and a select bibliography on legal anthropology.

Avalos, Francisco. "The Legal Personality of the Colonial Period of Mexico." Law Library Journal 83, no. 2 (1991): 393-400.

Cultura y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas de México. México: Archivo General de la Nación, 1996. Cultura y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas de México: Catálogo Documental. México: Archivo General de la Nación, 1997.

A collection of essays on indigenous law and indigenous rights from the colonial era to the present by many of Mexico's leading scholars (including Miguel León-Portilla, Carlos Monsiváis, José Luis Soberanes, Abelardo Villegas, Luis Villoro, and Silvio Zavala.) The accompanying "Catalogo Documental" provides descriptions of documents from the Archivo General de la Nación that illustrate the culture and rights of Mexico's indigenous peoples. Both books were products of "a series of conferences and roundtables organized by the Archivo General de la Nación ... on indigenous communities and their place within [the] Mexican national space." -- HLAS.

Beleña, Eusebio Buenaventura. Recopilación Sumaria de Todos los Autos Acordados de la Real Audiencia y Sala del Crimen de esta Nueva España, y Providencias de su Superior Gobierno... 6 vols. México: Don Felipe de Zúñiga y Ontiveros, 1787.

This important compilation contains legislation, royal orders, and criminal court decisions from colonial Mexico. The compilation is indexed and includes provisions on criminal law, labor law, property rights, and the local governance of indigenous communities. Facsimile editions of this work are available, including editions published in 1981 and 1991 by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Borah, Woodrow Wilson. Justice by Insurance: The General Indian Court of Colonial Mexico and the Legal Aides of the Half-Real. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Borah describes the failure of the Spanish government's effort to preserve native legal customs, and the consequences of this failure in terms of disruption of the Indian social order and the flood of litigation by Indians in the Spanish courts.

Cambria Florit, José Antonio. El Derecho Indiano qua se Aplicóen las Colonias. Rio Cuarto, Argentina: Centro Riocuartense de Estudios e Investigaciones Históricas, 2000.

Carmona Lara, Ma. del Carmen. "La evolución del pensamiento jurídico en México respecto al derecho indígena." In Vol. 1, Memoria del IV Congreso de Historia del Derecho Mexicano, 1986, edited by Beatriz Bernal, 211-224. México: Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1988.

Carmona Lara defines the concept of indigenous law and reviews Mexican legal scholarship on this subject from colonial times to the present.

Collier, George A., Renato Rosaldo, and John D. Wirth, eds. The Inca and Aztec States, 1400-1800: Anthropology and History. New York: Academic Press, 1982.

Dougnac Rodriguez, Antonio. Manual de historia de derecho indiano. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1994.

Garcia-Gallo, Alfonso. Estudios de Historia del Derecho Indiano. Madrid: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Jurídicos, 1972.

Góngora, Mario. El Estado de el Derecho Indiano: Época de Fundación (1492 - 1570). Santiago de Chile: [Instituto de Investigaciones Histórico-Culturales, Facultad de Filosofia y Educación, Universidad de Chile], 1951.

González de Cossío, Francisco et al., eds. Legislación Indigenista de México. México: Instituto Indigenista Interamericano, 1958.

This book is a compilation of Mexican decrees, legislation, and court decisions related to indigenous people for the time period from 1810 to 1954. This book covers such topics as communal property, slavery, agrarian reform, labor relations, and government agencies responsible for indigenous affairs.

Hera, Alberto de la, Ana María Barrero, and Rosa María Martínez de Codes. La Historia del Derecho Indiano: Aportaciones de Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano a la Bibliografía Jurídica Americanista. Madrid: Editorial de la Universidad Complutense, 1989.

Izquierdo, Ana Luisa. "Casos de Vigencia del Derecho Prehispánico en la Actualidad." Anuario Mexicano de Historia del Derecho 10 (1998): 425-433.

This article describes various prehispanic legal customs that have become incorporated into written Mexican law.

Kellogg, Susan. Law and the Transformation of Aztec Culture, 1500-1700. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

This book discusses "the story of how Spanish law served as an instrument of cultural transformation and adaptation in the lives of the indigenous population during the first two centuries of colonial rule. ... [b]ased on a wide array of local-level Spanish and Nahuatl documentation and an intensive analysis of seventy-three lawsuits over property involving Indians resident in Tenochtitlan/Mexico City that were heard by the Real Audiencia between 1536 and 1700..." [book jacket].

Leyes y ordenanças nueuamete hechas por su Magestad, pa la gouernacion de las Indias y buen tratamiento y conseruacion de los Indios: que se han de guardar en el consejo y audiecias reales q en ellas residen: y por todos los otros gouernadores, juezes y personas particulares dellas ... Alcalá de Henares, Impressas en casa de Joan de Brocar, 1543.

These laws, also referred to as the Leyes Nuevas of 1542, were created to protect indigenous people from abuses that were occuring as a result of the encomienda system of land ownership that was imposed by the Spaniards following the conquest (see Stevens book below for English translation). These laws were preceded by the Leyes de Burgos, which were created in 1512 and were the first laws to govern the new Spanish colonies. The Leyes de Burgos applied to the Caribbean region and therefore are not included in this bibliography. The original imprint of the Leyes Nuevas is housed at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain.

Llaguno, Jose A. La Personalidad Jurídica del Indio y el III Concilio Provincial Mexicano (1585), Ensayo Histórico-Jurídico de los Documentos Originales. México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa, 1963.

This book is a study of the Catholic Church's debates in the 16th century over the legal status of indigenous peoples. While the Third Mexican Provincial Council affirmed the basic human rights of the indigenous, it also considered them to be minors who were incapable of exercising their full legal rights.

Lockhart, James, Frances Berdan, and Arthur J. O. Anderson. The Tlaxcalan Acts: A Compendium of the Records of the Cabildo of Tlaxcala (1545-1627). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986.

The city of Tlaxcala received favored treatment from the Spaniards as a reward for helping overthrow the Aztecs. As a result, it was the only major city in New Spain whose government was dominated by indigenous people for several decades. The Tlaxacala City Council records studied in this volume reveal how the native ruling class and the Spanish form of municipal government adapted themselves to each other.

Manzano Manzano, Juan. Historia de las Recopilaciones de Indias. 3rd ed. 2 vols. Madrid: Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, 1991.

Manzano Manzano, Juan. "Las Leyes y Costumbres Indígenas en el Orden de Prelación de Fuentes del Derecho Indiano." Revista del Instituto de Historia del Derecho Ricardo Levene 18 (1967): 65-71.

Mariluz Urquijo, José M. "El derecho prehispánico y el derecho indiano como modelos del derecho castellano." In III Congreso del Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano: Actos y Estudios, 101-109. Madrid: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Jurídicos, 1973.

Mörner, Magnus. La Corona Española y los Foráneos en los Pueblos de Indios de América. Stockholm: Latinamerikanska-institutet i Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell, 1970.

Early in the conquest of the New World, the missionaries decided that indigenous people would become much better Christians without the bad example of the Spanish settlers. Thus began an effort to enforce residential segregation of the indigenous population. Mörner discusses the ideas behind segregation, the laws drawn up to create it, the ultimate failure to enforce them, and the social transformations that took place in spite of these laws.

Ots y Capdequi, Jose Maria. Historia del Derecho Español en America y del Derecho Indiano. Madrid: Aguilar, 1969.

Pietschmann, Horst. "Consideraciones en torno al problema del estudio del derecho indigena colonial." In Vol. 2, IX Congreso del Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano, Madrid, 5 a 10 de Febrero de 1990: Actas y Estudios, 7-17. Madrid: Editorial de la Universidad Complutense, 1991.

Recopilación de las leyes de los Reynos de las Indias; mandadas imprimir y publicar por la Magestad Catolica del Rey Don Carlos II… 4 vols. Madrid: Ivlian de Paredes, 1681.

These laws followed the Leyes Nuevas de 1542 and governed the entirety of New Spain. Any aspects of the law that were not covered in this Recopilación were governed by the Recopilación de las leyes destos reynos: hecha por mandado de la Magestad Catolica del Rey Don Phillipe Segundo… 2 vols. Alcalá de Henares: en casa de Andrés de Angulo, 1567-1569 (with multiple subsequent editions.)

Rípodas Ardanaz, Daisy. "Imagen del Derecho Indígena en el Teatro Español del Setecientos." In Vol. 2, XI Congreso del Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano: Actas y Estudios, 167-187. Buenos Aires: Instituto de Investigaciones de Historia del Derecho, 1997.

This article looks at the depiction of indigenous legal systems in the Spanish theatre of the late 18th-early 19th centuries, and discusses how these depictions served either to justify the Spanish conquest, or as a commentary on contemporary European society.

Roca Tocco, C. Alberto. Compendio de derecho indiano. Nuevo León, México: Universidad de Monterrey, 2001.

Rodríguez-Shadow, María. La Mujer Azteca. 3rd ed. Toluca, México: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Mexico, 1997.

Ruz Escalante, José Luis. Breve Historia de la Legislación Maya en Quintana Roo: Siglos I al XIX. Quintana Roo, México: Fondo de Publicaciones y Ediciones, Gobierno del Estado de Quintana Roo, 1991.

Sánchez Bella, Ismael. Nuevos Estudios de Derecho Indiano. Pamplona, Spain: EUNSA, 1995.

Sanchez Sandoval, Augusto. Control Social Economico-Penal en México. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Plaza y Valdes, 2008.

Stevens, Henry, and Fred W. Lucas. The New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians, Promulgated by the Emperor Charles the Fifth, 1542-1543; A Facsimile Reprint of the Original Spanish Edition, Together with a Literal Translation into the English Language; To Which is Prefixed an Historial Introduction... New York: AMS Press, 1971.

This is a reprint of a book first published in London in 1893. It contains the text in English and Spanish of the Nuevas Leyes de 1542. Most of the book is taken up by the introduction, which denounces Spanish mistreatment of indigenous people.

Tau Anzoátegui, Victor. Nuevos Horizontes en el Estudio Histórico del Derecho Indiano. Buenos Aires: Instituto de Investigaciones de Historia del Derecho, 1997.

Tyler, S. Lyman, ed. Concerning the Indians Lately Discovered: The Indian Cause Before the Law of Nations, Colonial Period. Salt Lake City: American West Center, University of Utah, 1980.

This book is an English translation, with commentary, of treatises by the Spanish jurist Francisco de Vitoria (d. 1546), who argued that while the Indian nations of the New World were sovereign, the Spanish state could be justified in making war on the Indians if they hindered trade or the preaching of the Gospel.

Tyler, S. Lyman, ed. The Indian Cause in the Spanish Laws of the Indies. Salt Lake City: American West Center, University of Utah, 1980.

This book is an English translation, with commentary, of large parts of the Spanish colonial law, including the Laws of the Indies. The opening essay includes a useful literature review.

Vargas, Jorge A. "An Introductory Lesson to Mexican Law: From Constitutions and Codes to Legal Culture and NAFTA." San Diego Law Review 41 (2004): 1337–1372.

Vigil, Ralph H. Alonso de Zorita: Royal Judge and Christian Humanist, 1512-1585. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.

Zorita sat as a judge on the highest courts in New Spain and became an ardent defender of indigenous rights. He is also one of the best sources on pre-conquest Aztec law. Of the many Spaniards who prepared accounts of the Aztec legal system, he was one of the very few who had prior legal training.

Zorraquín Becú, Ricardo. "Los derechos aborígenes." Revista de Historia de Derecho 14 (1986): 427-451.

Aztecs and Mayas: General Works

Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel. Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2006.

Berdan, Frances F. The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society. 2nd ed. Belmont, Cal.: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.

Biart, Lucien. The Aztecs: Their History, Manners and Customs. Chicago: McClury and Co., 1887.

Calnek, Edward. "The Internal Structure of Tenochtitlan." In Valley of Mexico: Studies of Pre-Hispanic Ecology and Society, edited by Eric Wolf. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1976.

Carasco, David, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures: The Civilizations of Mexico and Central America. 3 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Clancy, Flora S., and Peter D. Harrison. Vision and Revision in Maya Studies. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Clendenin, Inga. Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatán, 1517–1570. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Coe, Michael D. The Maya. 7th ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2005.

Coe, Michael, and Rex Koontz. Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Culbert, Patrick T., and Don S. Rice, eds. Precolumbian Population History in the Maya Lowlands. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Farriss, Nancy M. Maya Society Under Colonial Rule: The Collective Enterprise of Survival. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

"Scholarly study of social organization (economy, family, religion and world view, politics, ethnic relations and population changes) of the Maya of Yucatan from late preconquest to 1820. What allowed the Maya to survive, while most other Indian cultures succumbed, is the question that runs through the pages and threads the chapters of this classic work." -- HLAS.

Foster, Lynn V. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2002.

Hagen, Victor W. Von Los Mayas. Décima novena Reimpresión de la Primera Edición en Español. México, D.F.: Editorial Joaquín Mortíz, 1987.

Hassig, Ross. Time, History, and Belief in Aztec and Colonial Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Hassig, Ross. Trade, Tribute, and Transportation: The Sixteenth-Century Political Economy in the Valley of Mexico. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

Hassig, Ross. War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

Harvey, H.R. Land and Politics in the Valley of Mexico: A Two Thousand Year Perspective. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1991.

Houston, Stephen D., and Takeshi Inomata. The Classic Maya. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Josephy, Alvin M, Jr., ed. America in 1492: The World of the Indian Peoples Before the Arrival of Columbus. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

León-Portilla, Miguel. Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

León-Portilla, Miguel, ed. The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.

León-Portilla, Miguel. El Reverso de la Conquista: Relaciones Aztecas, Mayas e Incas. México: Editorial J. Moritz, 2007.

Lucero, Lisa Joyce. Water and Ritual: The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Rulers. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.

Mann, Charles C. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Knopf, 2005.

Marcus, Joyce. “Ancient Maya Political Organization.” In Lowland Maya Civilization in the Eighth Century, edited by Jeremy A. Sabloff and John S. Henderson. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1993.

Martin, Simon, and Nikolai Grube. Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000.

McAnany, Patricia. Living with the Ancestors: Kinship and Kingship in Ancient Maya Society. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Nabokov, Peter, ed. Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations from Prophecy to the Present, 1492-1992. New York: Penguin, 1999.

Native Americans describe their encounter with Europeans in their own words in this documentary, which includes Aztec and Mayan accounts of the conquest. "A strong and moving reminder of a lost dimension in American history," says Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Ruz Lhuillier, Alberto. Los Antiguos Mayas. 3rd ed. México: Editorial Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2000.

Sanders, William T., and Joseph Marino. New World Prehistory: Archaeology of the American Indian. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970.

Schele, Linda, and David A. Freidel. A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya. New York: Quill/ W. Morrow, 1990.

"Beautifully-written exploration of Maya history from preclassic through classic times, based on the imaginative use of a wide range of archaeological, linguistic, and ethnohistorical evidence." -- HLAS.

Schele, Linda, and Peter Mathews. The Code of Kings, The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs. New York: Scribner, 1998.

Schroeder, Susan, Stephanie Wood, and Robert Haskett. Indian Women of Early Mexico. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

Sharer, Robert J. Daily Life in the Maya Civilization. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Sharer, Robert J., and Loa P. Traxler. The Ancient Maya. 6th ed. Stanford, Ca.: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Smith, Michael Ernest. The Aztecs. 2nd ed. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2003.

Smith, Michael Ernest. Aztec City-State Capitals. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008.

Townsend, Richard F. The Aztecs. 2nd ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000.

Wright, Ronald. Stolen Continents: The Americas Through Indian Eyes Since 1492. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

The author's account of the conquest of the American continent is based on oral and written sources of the Aztec, Maya, Inca, Cherokee, and Iroquois.

Zantwijk, Rudolf A.M. van. The Aztec Arrangement: The Social History of Pre-Spanish Mexico. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

Links to Aztec and Maya Resources

Ancient Mesoamerica: A Librarian's Research Guide - David C. Murphy, Temple University

Aztec Bibliography for Students - Michael E. Smith, Professor of Anthropology at Arizona State University

Bibliografía General Sobre los Siglos XVI y XVII - Thomas Ward at Loyola University Maryland

Bibliografía Mesoamericana - Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI)

The Conquest of Mexico: An Annotated Bibliography - Nancy Fitch, Professor of History at California State University - Fullerton (includes detailed discussion of codices and primary sources)

Estudios de Cultura Maya - Index and pdf versions of some articles for this publication are available online through the Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. The Instituto also maintains an online library of law journals related to Mexican law at the Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual.

Instituto Internacional de Historia del Derecho Indiano - Members of this Institute meet approximately every two to three years to discuss the latest research concerning Latin American indigenous legal history. The proceedings of these meetings are published and available at numerous libraries. Their most recent meeting was held in 2007 in Santiago, Chile.

The Maya Meetings - University of Texas at Austin

The Mesoamerica Center - University of Texas at Austin

Mesoweb: An Exploration of Mesoamerican Cultures

Noticias de Antropología y Arqueología: Bibliografía para la Investigación de la Cultura Mexica - Arqlgo. Marco Cervera Obregón

Sources for Illustrations

Aubin, J. M. A. Memoires sur la peinture didactique et l'écriture figurative des anciens Mexicains. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1885.

Clark, James Cooper, ed. and trans. Codex Mendoza: The Mexican Manuscript Known as the Collection of Mendoza and Preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. 3 v. London: Waterlow & Sons, Limited, 1938.

Miller, Mary Ellen. The Murals of Bonampak. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Pintura del gobernador, alcaldes y regidores de México; Códice Osuna. Madrid: Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Dirección General de Archivos y Bibliotecas, 1973.

Reents-Budet, Dorie. Painting the Maya Universe: Royal Ceramics of the Classic Period. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, in association with Duke University Museum, 1994.

Sahagún, Bernardino de. Historia de las cosas de Nueva España. 5 v. Madrid: Fototípica de Hauser y Menet, 19--.