In this interesting volume, Iris Zavala attempts to reveal the origins of Freemasons, Comuneros, and Carbonari in Spain and their role in the political ferment that buffeted the Peninsula after Ferdinand VII returned from France in 1814 and thrust aside the Constitution of 1812.

Chapter I traces the beginnings of Spanish Freemasonry and how, with Ferdinand’s retrieval of absolute power in 1814, liberals (army officers, merchants, professionals, among others) streamed into new and clandestine masonic lodges and patriotic groups and schemed for reinstallation of the Constitution. Chapter II discusses the Constitutional Triennium (1820-23), which the Freemasons had helped bring about by organizing the civilian aspects of the liberal revolution in early 1820. Professor Zavala examines political activities of the Liberals of 1812 (Afrancesados) and the radical liberals (Comuneros—“Protestants of Masonry”) during the Triennium. In Chapter III, she analyzes the origins and functions of the sociedades patrióticas and sociedades secretas, which became significant political elements after 1820. Directly related to the sociedades económicas of the eighteenth century, the sociedades patrióticas evolved into a political institution resembling a mixture of the French revolutionary club and English political meeting. After being prohibited by the anti-constitutional government, they became clandestine. Perhaps the most radical grouping of individuals were the Comuneros, who, according to Professor Zavala, constituted a “decisive step toward a political party which would incorporate the poorer classes.”

Chapter IV investigates Carbonarism, a revolutionary political phenomenon of importance in Italy and France. As Spanish Comuneros began as disenchanted Freemasons, so also the Italian Carbonari originally were Italian Freemasons. Unquestionably, some Carbonari found their way to Spain and made common cause with Comuneros, but a dearth of documentation leaves doubt exactly as to how and when they arrived and to what depths their influence penetrated. In Chapter V Professor Zavala focuses on the secret organizations in exile from 1823-34, which were formed when Ferdinand regained his power in 1823 and many of his political opponents fled to France and England. Much of the discussion outlines attempts by these continuously disunited exiles to invade Spain and overthrow the government of Ferdinand. The sixth and final chapter concerns the secret progressive societies during the years 1835 to 1850; they emerged after Ferdinand’s death and the consequent struggle between supporters of Don Carlos and Queen María Cristina and her daughter Isabella. Ranging from liberal-moderates to radicals, these groups “formed a proletarian conscience.”

Professor Zavala has relied admirably upon many archival as well as Spanish, English, and French secondary sources for providing elusive details of the myriad participants in this half-century of political turmoil. Yet, fully aware of the limits of her data, Professor Zavala admits to many lacunae in her story and reveals areas for further intensive research efforts. Some might find the many lengthy quotes throughout the text a bit redundant and others might quibble with her clear bias in favor of anti-absolutist revolutionary groups and against the very durable Ferdinand VII and his supporters. Nevertheless most will find this volume useful as a source of information on the creation, organization and evolution of these nascent political sects.