The most disastrous of all Latin American wars has been the most neglected. True, Brazilian and Argentine historians have written valuable accounts of the Paraguayan War, and Uruguayan scholars have produced a few good studies. But no Paraguayan historian, with the possible exception of the expatriate Arturo Rebaudi, has yet seen fit to write a scholarly treatise of the conflict that all but annihilated his country. Historians in countries other than the four combatants in the War of the Triple Alliance also have failed to exploit this potentially rich field.

To the very small and slowly growing group of Paraguayanists in the United States, Charles Kolinski first gained admittance with an article on the death of Francisco Solano López. This article probably was inspired by his major effort, a doctoral dissertation on the Paraguayan War, now published by the University of Florida Press.

This volume is especially welcome because it is the first comprehensive history of the war in English. Multivolume histories in Spanish, Portuguese, and German lack a desirable balance: invariably they neglect Paraguay and place too much emphasis on one of the other combatants. Here, indeed, is a major virtue of Kolinski’s work. His is a balanced narrative, generally well proportioned among the many facets that demand attention. Kolinski sets the stage, summarizes causes, then provides sketches of López, Dom Pedro, Mitre, Flores, and Urquiza. He returns frequently to the Marshal and the Emperor as the narrative progresses. A very good chapter describes the armed forces of the combatants, with special attention to organization, training, leadership, and materiel.

Although Kolinski is at his best in these first chapters, the allotment of space appears to be uneven. The major battles deserve more attention. This weakness is at least partially remedied by constant reminders of what was going on in Brazil and Argentina, behind the lines in Paraguay, and in the rear areas of the allied armies. In an epilogue the author succinctly summarizes effects of the war on the combatants and properly ascribes to the conflict an important role in the eventual overthrow of Pedro II.

A major weakness of this dissertation is the author’s dependence entirely upon published materials. Archival sources are available. The maps are generally inadequate, and one is attributed to “Charles A. Wilburn”! An otherwise attractive volume is marred by careless proofreading. Occasionally the author labors to produce dramatic effects; the story itself is so tragic that no literary devices are needed.

Kolinski is to be congratulated, however, on his mastery of an extremely complicated subject. He has produced a fast-moving and fascinating narrative that must be accorded a prominent place in the historiography of the war.