This life of Santiago Eder, written by his son, is valuable chiefly for sidelights on the economic and political history of the Cauca valley of Colombia in the 19th century. Born in 1838 in Russia, James Eder followed an older brother to the United States, took his law degree at Harvard in 1859, and by 1861 found himself by accident in Buenaventura. Deciding to stay in Colombia, he bought the two fincas of “La Manuelita” and “La Rita” near Palmira, served as United States consul in Buenaventura and Palmira, and became involved in transportation improvements, in masonic controversies, in the accidental killing of a Colombian, and in many interesting litigations. Although always deeply interested in the practice of law, he devoted most of his energies to sugar and coffee and other economic enterprises up to the time that his sons took over from him and he returned to the United States about the turn of the century.
The shortcomings of this volume for the historian are: that parts are of interest and significance only to the Eder family; that a number of matters not vital to the central subject are treated in great detail; and, that the unconventional way of citing sources and the absence of an index make the volume difficult to use efficiently.
The strength of the book is that Phanor J. Eder knows whereof he writes, for he grew up on “La Manuelita” and has for his active adult life of 60 years been a professional, studious, and affectionate devotee of Colombian affairs. The bibliographies concluding each chapter show the extent of the author’s erudition. Many of the works cited (as well as the personal papers of Santiago Eder) are among the author’s excellent private Colombian collection recently donated by him to the University of Miami.