The caudillo of Spanish America was both regional chieftain and, in the turbulent years of the early nineteenth century, national leader. His power base rested on ownership of land and control of armed bands. He was the rival of constitutional rulers and the precursor of modern dictators. His is a dominant figure in Latin American history. John Lynch explores the changing perception of the caudillo - bandit chief, guerrilla leader, republican hero - and examines
his multi-faceted role as regional strongman, war leader, landowner, distributor of patronage, and the `necessary gendarme' who maintained social order. Professor Lynch traces the origins and development of the caudillo tradition, and sets it in its contemporary context. His
scholarly analysis of this central theme in the history of Spanish America is underpinned by detailed case-studies of four major caudillos: Juan Manuel de Rosas (Argentina), José Antonio Páez (Venezuela), Antonio López de Santa Anna (Mexico), and Rafael Carrera (Guatemala). This is an important contribution to our understanding of political and social structures during the formative period of the nation-state in Spanish America.
'important and original book ... Lynch is better equipped than many of today's narrowly focused historians to tackle this grand and complex theme ... Throughout this absorbing book, Lynch mixes grand themes and illuminating details. As a "top-down" study of the caudillos of early republican Spanish America, it is original, wide-ranging, and suggestive, a major contribution to Latin American historiography which is all the more valuable in that it
illuminates a particularly murky period of the continent's history.'
Times Literary Supplement
'This volume, as a broad, structured presentation, undoubtedly is the best book on caudillismo that we now have. Lynch's research is impressive ... The book is written in a brisk, remarkably concise, often aphoristic prose. And the analysis is generally persuasive. Lynch has provided us with a magisterial interpretation of great breadth, which will help greatly to structure our understanding of caudillismo, but at the same time is likely
to stimulate new discussion.'
Frank Safford, Northwestern University, Latin American Studies, Volume 25
'John Lynch has written another important book on Spain and its former colonies. With its insightful biographies and critiques of the literature, Caudillos in Spanish America improves our understanding of political instability throughout the continent.'
Charles Walker, University of California at Davis, Bulletin of Latin American Research
'Lynch's study is an important contribution to our understanding of the formative period of the nation-state in Spanish America and subsequent oligarchic dictatorships that challenged traditional caudillismo.'
Colonial Latin American Historical Review, Spring 1993