We now have an English translation of Gonzalo Sánchez’s and Donny Meertens’s seminal study of the later stages (1958–1965) of La Violencia in Colombia. In addition to exploring the causes and historical evolution of this conflict, the work is a case study to test what we might call bandit theory. Indeed, readers’ responses to the volume may largely depend on their appraisal of banditry as an appropriate theoretical model with which to investigate this aspect of Colombian history. Sánchez and Meertens are much indebted to Eric Hobsbawm’s conception of social banditry, but they also propose a new category to explain the Colombian case, political banditry. These bandits’ defining features were their relation to national politics and their political subordination to local authority figures, who used bandoleros to bolster their own power vis-à-vis the central state. The authors argue that while political bandits defied...

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