Don Pedro Antonio Francisco de Cevallos, military officer and bureaucrat, spent twelve of the last twenty-two years of his life in the region which was to become the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata. First as governor (1756-1766) and later as the first viceroy of the area (1776-1778), Cevallos, the consummate Bourbon civil servant, played a major role in interpreting and implementing Spanish policy in a section of the empire adjacent to the dominions of their Portuguese rivals.

Gammalsson now adds another chapter to the Cevallos bibliography. Basing his study on primary sources, the author attempts to present a more balanced study of this man than that presented heretofore by Argentine historians. The study succeeds in portraying Cevallos in meticulous detail. Drawing heavily upon archival material from both Argentine and Spanish sources, including correspondence, reports, expense accounts, residencia hearings, and local legislation, Cevallos is pictured as a competent, intelligent leader. Gammalsson sees Cevallos as a man originally sent to the area to implement the 1750 treaty which called for the transfer of the Siete Pueblos from Spanish-Jesuit to Portuguese hands. Although initially in agreement with this settlement, Gammalsson argues that Cevallos was quick to realize the negative consequences of this treaty and to become a strong defender of the territorial integrity of the area.

This study is a rather traditional biography set against a history of the political and diplomatic intrigues of the Spanish court. Too little attention is given to the social and economic developments in the Río de la Plata area. Cevallos’ role in political maneuvers with the Portuguese unfortunately overshadows his accomplishments in reorganizing the colony. Gammalsson’s fine archival research is also marred by his strong anti-Portuguese attitude as well as lengthy, meaningless digressions, elitist generalizations, poor footnotes, and the lack of a bibliography.