This compilation of selected correspondence of President Cipriano Castro of Venezuela is the first of a projected documentary series on twentieth-century Venezuelan history by the Instituto de Estudios Hispanoamericanos of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Of over ten thousand letters and telegrams found in Castro’s official copy books, Pino Iturrieta selected some four hundred. Most of them are published here for the first time, although some have appeared in the Boletín del Archivo Histórico de Miraflores, the most important published documentary source for the Castro (1899-1908) and Juan Vicente Gómez (1908-1935) regimes.

The correspondence is divided into three sections: internal policy, military affairs and international policy. The first section reveals the severity of Venezuela’s economic and administrative problems at the turn of the century and the dictator’s obsessive preoccupation with politics at every level throughout the republic. The section on military affairs centers on Castro’s successful crushing of the “Libertadora” Revolution (1901-03), which was led by the country’s most powerful caudillos and partially financed by foreign economic interests. The final section on international problems shows Castro to best advantage: forcefully defending national interests in the face of intervention by European powers. As the compiler’s introduction indicates, Venezuelan historians are now according Castro a high place in the ranks of national leaders—despite his monumental excesses—for his strong advocacy of anti-imperialist nationalism.

Pino Iturrieta’s introduction provides a sketch of the dictator’s career and surveys the Castro historiography briefly and somewhat superficially. Although the work has value as a research tool, it would have been more useful had the letters been edited; no notes are provided to explain the many references to persons who would be unknown to all but a few specialists. It is, in fact, difficult to understand why some messages were included at all. The volume does, however, include an extensive bibliography.