Clavigero, Francisco Javier

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Mexican Jesuit teacher and scholar, best known for writing the first popular work on the Aztecs; b. Veracruz, Mexico, Sept. 9, 1731; d. Bologna, Italy, April 2, 1787. Clavigero spent his earliest years in the Mixteca, the western part of the modern state of Oaxaca, where his father was royal agent. In February 1748 he entered the Society of Jesus in Puebla. He was ordained in October 1754. Late in 1756 he was sent to Mexico City to teach the Native Mexicans at San Gregorio's, a school adjoining the famed Jesuit school of St. Peter and St. Paul. Here he deepened his enthusiasm for pre-Columbian Mexican history. In March 1762 Clavigero was transferred to another native school in Puebla, where he remained until appointed professor of philosophy at Morelia in the summer of 1763. Heeding the call of the Jesuit general to modernize the curriculum of studies in the Jesuit schools, he taught courses in the new physics of Isaac Newton. In so doing he won lasting fame as a pioneer in the intellectual reform of 18th-century Mexico. When the Jesuits were banished from the Spanish Empire in June 1767, Clavigero went to Bologna and at first occupied his leisure hours in the study of Aztec civilization. He was distressed by the misinformation European books contained about the Americas in general and Mexico in particular.

He determined to refute these errors by portraying Mexico as it really was. The result was the Ancient History of Mexico (178081), which for its systematic arrangement, clear style, and sympathetic interest in Aztec civilization was praised by historians and won him international renown. His work strongly influenced the study of Aztec civilization for many decades, and it is still held in high repute, despite shortcomings and the fact that much progress has been made in Aztec studies since Clavigero's time. He also wrote a History of [Lower] California (1789). After the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, Clavigero spent the rest of his life as a diocesan priest in Bologna.

Bibliography: e. j. burrus, "Jesuit Exiles: Precursors of Mexican Independence," Mid America 36 (1954) 161175. j. le riverend brusone, "La historia antigua del padre Francisco Javier Clavijero," in Estudios de historiografía de la Nueva España, by h. dÍaz thomas et al. (Mexico City 1945).

[c. e. ronan]