Colombian historiography has tended to concentrate its attention on la Violencia, and the dominant approach of such studies has been either socioeconomic and cultural perspectives or regional and local. There are, of course, exceptions. James Henderson’s previous works—When Colombia Bled: A History of the Violence in Tolima (University of Alabama Press, 1985) and Conservative Thought in Twentieth-Century Latin America: The Ideas of Laureano Gómez (Ohio University Press, 1988)—are excellent examples of rigorous scholarship. This latest work is a likewise a welcome addition to the discipline, in spite of some unsatisfactory interpretations.

This is not a biography of Gómez (1889–1965—the outstanding leader of the Conservative Party), although his life span is the framework for the study, and his protagonism appropriately takes center stage in the story. By covering this span, Henderson is able to shed light on the much neglected decades that preceded la Violencia. By providing a national...

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