Historians have traditionally viewed the numerous civil wars and pronunciamientos that afflicted nineteenth-century Latin America as “purposeless tragedies” largely manufactured by “the blind obedience of individual soldiers to a charismatic leader” (p. 3). The eight essays in the volume under review suggest otherwise. They make clear that such conflicts were inherent to the region’s political culture, that participants often understood the wars’ ideological context, and that a wide array of factors (that is, regional, social, economic, geographic) need to be considered to explain their origins.

The book’s first four articles examine Latin America’s civil wars in broad terms. Frank Safford lays out some common hypotheses concerning nineteenth-century political stability. He also sketches the various types of civil conflict, looks at the relationship between elite recruitment and popular mobilization, and traces the way in which geography and technological innovations helped shape internal conflict in the region.

Next, Carlos Malamud’s sweeping review...

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