Timothy Hawkins has produced, in José de Bustamante and Central American Independence, a first-class addition to the historiography on the early nineteenth-century Latin American independence movements. For nearly two centuries, much of the scholarship on the Latin American struggle for independence (as good as it is) has implicitly reflected a sympathy, among both North American and Latin American historians, toward the colonial quest for liberty and self-government. The shared colonial experience of most of the hemisphere makes that perfectly understandable. Heroism and self-sacrifice in such a cause are captivating to historian and lay reader alike . . . and should be.

Hawkins, however, invites us to consider the other side of the story. It belongs to those who served the crown faithfully, resolutely, and often ably in the effort to preserve the Spanish American Empire between 1808 and 1825 under nearly impossible...

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