978-1-58567-284-4 / 9781585672844

Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence


Publisher:Overlook TP



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About the book:

In 1780, a Peruvian-born Spanish count named Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui organized a revolt against the Spanish crown, one that briefly united thousands of Indians in a 10-month war against Peru's European conquerors. The revolt was eventually crushed, and the count was torn apart by horses after having his tongue cut out.

Condorcanqui's revolt is all but forgotten today. But it set off events that continue to reverberate, writes Robert Harvey. Less than half a century later, across Latin America, "Spain's empire had vanished without a trace, as had Portugal's dominion over Brazil." This astoundingly rapid loss of empire was the work of a handful of sometimes flawed but gifted reformers such as Simón Bolivar, José de San Martín, and Bernardo O'Higgins, who followed George Washington's then recent example and organized great armies of liberation against powers they had come to regard as foreign. These leaders paid a great price--all of them, and others Harvey profiles, died violently--for revolts that sometimes replaced one inhumane regime with another, but that, Harvey observes, at least pointed the way toward "the independence and self-respect for which the Liberators fought so hard."

A former correspondent for The Economist, Harvey writes with particular attention to England's relations with Latin America, from failed invasions of Argentina and Nicaragua to more fruitful alliances with progressive movements throughout the hemisphere. By linking developments in Latin America to political movements in North America and Europe, he does much to remove the air of isolation and exceptionalism that surrounds so much historical writing about the region. --Gregory McNamee

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