These two books recently reissued to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Cevallos expedition and the founding of the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata are classics in colonial Argentine history. As such they are both traditional in approach and content, but well worth the attention of students of colonial Río de la Plata.

The first of these books, Enrique Barba’s biography of Don Pedro de Cevallos, first published in 1937, is an excellent, well-balanced and well researched study of a controversial military and political figure. Barba begins this new edition with a fine review of the pertinent historiography of Cevallos, tracing the treatment of the first platease viceroy in the hands of the most important nineteenth and twentieth-century Argentine and Uruguayan scholars. In this review Barba also touches on two of the major topics of eighteenth-century Río de la Plata historiography: the expulsion of the Jesuits from their missions, and the creation of the La Plata viceroyalty.

In general, Barba takes a sympathetic but not overly adulatory view of his subject. Cevallos is presented as an energetic leader, a gifted military figure who also understood the political and economic ramifications of Spanish colonial policy in the River Plate area. Nevertheless, Cevallos is also pictured as a man who tended to be unfair in his treatment of fellow bureaucrats, an individual unbridled in his desire for wealth, and a person often guilty of haughty demeanor. While Barba admires both the man and his accomplishments, this admiration is not blind.

The Beverina book, originally published in 1936, is now reissued in an expanded form, including a lengthy introduction, additional notes, documents, and maps, all provided by Alfredo Villegas. Villegas’ introduction is a good summary of the oftentimes confusing military history of the Río de la Plata, Río Grande, Siete Pueblos, Paraná, and Misiones areas. Villegas traces the beginnings of Portuguese intrusion into these areas claimed by the Spanish crown from the seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth century. He also reviews early attempts by the Spanish to oust the Portuguese from Sacramento, beginning with the Vera Mújica campaign of 1680, up to the first Cevallos campaign of 1763. Unfortunately this preface is somewhat marred by hyperbole, an anti-Portuguese bias, and a generous dollop of racism. While alluding to the “primitive instincts” of the Indians, Villegas unwittingly shows the great degree to which both Spaniards and Portuguese were willing to use the Indians, only partially trusted as allies, in their territorial conflicts. Villegas explains the Portuguese diplomatic victories which returned areas captured by Spanish troops to Portuguese rule by rather simplistically seeing a net of Portuguese intrigue at work within the heart of the Spanish court.

Villegas’ introduction, although limited by the above mentioned shortcomings is helpful; Beverina’s study itself is solid military history. Beverina concentrates on the military aims of the second Cevallos expedition, providing a detailed account of the campaigns, numbers and organization of troops, arms, plans, and lines of supply. This expedition, composed of a convoy of 96 boats carrying 9,300 troops left Spain in November 1776, charged with reestablishing Spanish hegemony in the long-disputed Río de la Plata area. After a brief review of Spanish—Portuguese military and diplomatic confrontation in the area, Beverina presents a detailed account of the expedition and the campaign which would prove to be the last eighteenth-century conflict in the area. Within less than a year, under Cevallos’ able leadership, Spanish troops successfully captured Santa Catarina and Colonia, although their goal of also conquering Río Grande proved elusive. Although the military objectives of the Cevallos expedition were cut short by diplomatic maneuvering and Santa Catarina was returned to the Portuguese in 1777, Beverina argues that the expedition had a lasting and positive effect, for the well-executed Spanish military victories impressed both Portuguese and Spanish subjects with Carlos Ill’s military power.

Both books contain extensive documentary evidence in their appendixes. Texts and documents should prove useful to scholars.