The Paraguayan historical literature which discusses the War of the Triple Alliance of 1864 to 1870, emphasizing the causes of the Great War and detailing its military campaigns, has failed to examine realistically the economic and demographic aspects.1 The result has been that specialists and nonspecialists alike have accepted the common conclusion that military actions, disease, and famine during the war deprived Paraguay of more than half of its population.2 My analysis of comparative growth rates in nineteenth-century Latin America, together with a reevaluation of the Paraguayan censuses and household structure, indicates that the War of the Triple Alliance actually cost Paraguay between 8.7 and 18.5 percent of its prewar population. A discussion of military fatalities and of the effects of disease on the population, a consideration of migrations and territorial losses, and an evaluation of agricultural productivity during the war help to explain the manner in which losses occurred. The evidence demonstrates that the Paraguayan population casualties due to the war have been enormously exaggerated.

Any reinterpretation of the mortality rates of the war must begin with a comparative analysis of population growth rates, for this is one of the most effective checks on census figures.3 In effect, one problem has been that authors have regularly overstated the growth rates for Paraguay. Emanuel Bourgade la Dardye, one of the early analysts of Paraguayan population, noted that Paraguay was similar in climate and isolation to Corrientes, Argentina, for which he estimated an annual population growth rate of 3.3 percent in the nineteenth century. He thought that anything less than 3.3 percent was too low because of the prevalence of large families of 10 to 12 children.4 John Hoyt Williams continued this pattern of overstating population growth rates by proposing a rate of 3 percent from 1846 to 1864.5 The need for skepticism concerning such Paraguayan growth rates becomes clear when one looks at the comparative data in Table I. My own suggested growth rates for Paraguay, of between .8 and 2.2 percent, are considerably closer to those for the rest of Latin America in the same time period.

Table I suggests that growth rates varied in the nineteenth century between .5 and 2.7 percent. They varied both over time and between countries. Yet there was disagreement among authors as to growth rates even in the same time period and in the same country because of the inaccuracies of census data. In general, more evidence is available for the latter part of the nineteenth century than for the earlier part, but the quality of the data is almost always difficult to determine.6

Clearly, the factor of assimilation should be considered for Latin American countries with high indigenous populations. The apparent growth rate of countries with such populations could be misleading if a population that was previously uncounted or underestimated was being absorbed into the national population and included in later national censuses. This might well be the case for Paraguay. Although a definitive study of the nineteenth-century indigenous population of Paraguay has yet to be written, it is clear that a large section of the Indian population was unassimilated at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The administrations of both José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (1814-40) and Carlos Antonio López (1844-62) encouraged the absorption of the Indian population. Thus, while eighteenth-century censuses had included mission Indians and some town Indians, nineteenth-century census data included a larger number of assimilated Indians, and the relatively high growth rates previously derived for Paraguay between 1796 and 1846 may be explained in part by the absorption of the Indian population into both culture and numbers. (On the other hand, a careful examination of the censuses of 1846 and 1864 indicates that no populations from the present departments of the Chaco, Alto Paraguay, Nueva Asunción, and Boquerón were included, even though these were considered Paraguayan territory and were lightly populated by indigenous peoples; the census of 1864 did indicate households in Occidental, in the department of Presidente Hayes.) Although the amount of assimilation for Paraguay is obviously difficult to assess, it could have increased the apparent growth rate by as much as 1 percent.7

The Paraguayan Censuses

Estimates of Paraguayan population during the nineteenth century range widely, as indicated by Table II, yet there were also four censuses of relative accuracy, those of 1792, 1846, 1886, and 1899 (see Table III). The household counts of 1864 to 1867, though incomplete, can also be used to validate earlier data. At first glance, the census figures indicate that population growth rates varied between .8 and 3.1 percent, although a closer examination of comparative and Paraguayan data suggests an annual growth rate for Paraguay in the nineteenth century of between 1.0 and 1.5 percent from 1846 to 1864 and between 1.8 and 2.2 percent from 1870 to 1899.8

The first census of those featured in the table, that of 1792, described 66 districts and appears reasonably complete.9 The census of 1846, as noted by Domingo Rivarola, was prepared by the bishop of Paraguay, Basilio Lopez, and was the most complete up to that time, but we do not know how the figures were obtained. Data for some districts, moreover, are missing. John H. Williams, in his study of the 1846 census, carefully explains how he derived his figures for the missing districts and correctly points out the errors of Massare de Kostianovsky in her discussion of the same census. Anneliese Kegler de Galeano, in another study of the 1846 census that was published the same year as Williams’s and used substantially the same sources, failed to estimate the population for missing districts, and her specific data, which are organized by departments but not by household membership, do not agree completely with those of Williams.10 Because of the care with which he constructed his estimates, Williams appears to be the most accurate. However, the minor statistical disagreements among the researchers do not invalidate the general picture that emerges. If one accepts the 1792 census and that of 1846 (as corrected by Williams) as substantially accurate, then during this half century there was a growth rate of 1.8 percent, which appears high, although the explanation may be the assimilation of Indian populations. It is also possible that the 1792 census figures were low.

The census of 1886 well illustrates the difficulty of trying to analyze the Paraguayan population. During the government of General Patricio Escobar, the director of the General Office of Statistics, José Jacquet, conducted a census that gave the total population of Paraguay as 239,774. However, Jacquet thought this was too low and raised the total by 10 percent to 263,751. The next year he concluded that this was still too low and raised his estimate by another 37 percent to bring the total to 329,645. His arbitrary method of computation leaves open the question of what the actual population was in 1886. However, the higher figure of 329,645 appears to he the most likely, since in relation to the 1899 census that gave Paraguay’s population as 490,719 it suggests the lowest growth rate for the next decade, one of 3.1 percent. And even this growth rate is suspect.11

All of the other censuses noted in Table II appear to be mere estimates of the Paraguayan population with varying degrees of inaccuracy.12 Of most interest are the figures which state the population before and after the Great War. A number of sources putting the population in 1857 at between 1,337,431 and 1,337,449 have frequently been considered reliable, because they explicitly refer to a census of 1857 and give breakdowns by districts.13 It is these 1857 figures that have traditionally been used to suggest that Paraguay lost more than half its population during the war. Since supporting data have not been found in the archives, however, it appears that Paraguay took no such census. Rather, it was politically advantageous for Paraguay to give the impression that it had a large population, since it was surrounded by powerful neighbors. The 1857 figures obviously are unacceptable, as they assume an annual population growth rate of almost 17 percent in the immediately preceding period, which is entirely unrealistic since no large-scale immigration occurred in Paraguay between 1846 and 1864. Indeed, even countries with the greatest immigration do not claim such high growth rates.14

The population statistics for 1870-72 suggest other problems. As for 1857, there is a great deal of agreement among sources. A representative figure is that of 231,796, contained in a report of 1872 to the British Foreign Office.15 But without further information as to the basis of this and other estimates, it is difficult to judge accuracy. As far as the British estimate is concerned, British agents’ knowledge of Asunción has generally been more accurate than their information on the rural areas, where reports appear to be impressionistic. In general, it is likely that estimates would be low rather than high. Paraguayans, particularly in the rural areas, were probably disinclined to cooperate with any census, given the recent demands of the Francisco Solano Lopez regime, their own cooperation with and support of it, and the continued influence of Argentina and Brazil in Paraguayan politics. For that matter, even censuses taken under ideal conditions generally undercount by 5 to 10 percent.

Moreover, if one accepts the 1899 census as described by Carrasco as accurate, and then calculates growth backward from 1899 to 1870 at 1.8 to 2.2 percent, the population in 1870 would range from 261,069 to 292,514. There are a number of reasons for suggesting that these growth rates are acceptable. From 1876 onward some Paraguayans in exile may well have returned, and, in addition, the government did encourage immigration. Finally, factors which might have discouraged people from being counted in 1870 (either the requirements of serving in the army or the feared retribution of Brazilians and Argentines) no longer existed. It is, of course, difficult to determine when exiles returned. The withdrawal of the allied military forces from Paraguay in July 1876 might have encouraged Paraguayans to return, even though Argentina continued for a time to administer Villa Occidental. (An arbitral decision awarded the area to Paraguay in November 1878, and Argentine troops finally departed Villa Occidental in May 1879.) National policies promoting both immigration and the return of Paraguayans living abroad began in 1881. The formation of the Liberal and Colorado parties in 1887, which further signaled the assurance of relative political autonomy, might have also encouraged some exiles to return home.16

The validity of the growth rates of 1 to 1.5 for 1846 to 1864 and 1.8 to 2.2 for 1870 to 1899 is further supported by documentation recently discovered in the Paraguayan National Archives. Along with material on agriculture, there exists a governmental district-by-district recording of households for the years 1864 to 1867 (see Table IV). This information provides additional evidence about the size of the Paraguayan population on the eve of the Great War, and substantiates my estimates of the population for 1870.

For the purposes of this study, household will be defined as all the people living in one dwelling, without specifying the exact biological or legal relationship. Although the terms household and family size are often used interchangeably, the household might often, but not always, be larger than family size.17 In any case, estimates of household/family size for Paraguay are rarely available. Bishop Manuel Antonio de la Torre suggested an average family size of 4.33 to 5.08 for Paraguay in 1761. Juan Francisco Aguirre indicated a family size of 2.57 to 5.43 in mestizo areas in 1792, rising to 6.9 when there was a black population. Kegler de Galeano calculated average family/household size in 1846 at 5.32 to 7.89, depending on the district. For the same census, Williams calculated an average household size of 6.98 with variations from 4.48 to 15.85. He indicated that, although the household size varied greatly by district, the average household was composed in 1846 of a father, mother, three children, and two servants, either free or slave.18

Williams’s household figures seem a little high, since the average household size in nineteenth-century Latin America was lower, averaging between 4.75 and 5.28 in Mexico during the 1820 to 1875 era, and 6.1 in Minas Gerais in 1804. Household sizes in Europe were also lower, tending to average less than five people per household.19 Demographic studies for Latin America do suggest that the patriarchal, extended family was found especially among the elite so that in 1744 the average household size in center-city Buenos Aires, where the elite families lived, was 6.78, whereas the residential areas of skilled artisans and the lower classes had smaller household sizes.20 Large households also occurred in areas where slavery was an important institution: for example, in South Carolina slaves increased the average household by 4.09.21 In Paraguay, however, slavery, though abolished only in 186922 was not very important, and neither was the local elite a substantial element of the population. Large households may have represented an ideal, but because of economic and other limitations, they cannot have been the general rule.23

Chile appears demographically comparable to Paraguay because both were agricultural countries with sufficient available land, depended little or not at all on slavery, and used comparable types of houses. Thus, a household size of 5.5 to 6, as found in Chile, would also appear likely for Paraguay in the midnineteenth century. Further analysis of the raw data for the 1846 census supports this conclusion, and provides evidence as to why the variation of household size was so great. Priests who collected the statistics in 1845 and 1846 did not consistently use the same criteria: while some used a more conventional definition of household, others used a religious one which defined a household to include the immediate family members who continued parish membership even though they had established their own separate households. This method of defining household assured that the census records could be created from the parish records and that the priests did not have to visit outlying homesteads. Kegler de Galeano in discussing the 1846 census uses the term “familia,” which can be translated as either family or household, whereas Williams defines the unit explicitly as household. Their studies clearly reflect the various problems of defining and estimating household size.24 Despite these problems, the 1846 census data are compatible with an average household size of from 5.5 to 6. Therefore, on the basis of the household numbers counted in 1864, as given in Table IV, one can calculate the Paraguayan population on the eve of the war at 291,605 to 318,114.

Table IV also suggests that the number of households declined during the war from 53,019 to 43,671, or a total of 18 percent. Although one could use the percentage drop in households to conclude a similarly large decrease of the population by 1870, this appears much too steep for a number of reasons. First of all, the 1867 wartime count of households was extremely inaccurate. Most likely the households were underestimated because of the forced mobility due to the war. Data are missing for a large number of districts. In addition, it is difficult to estimate the household size during extraordinary wartime conditions. Household membership probably increased as families came together when men left for the front. Seeking moral and economic support, Paraguayans may have emphasized extended rather than nuclear families. Figure 1, Map of the Districts of Paraguay, compared with Table IV, shows the shift of population away from the war zones. The household data of 1864 and 1867 help to substantiate the choice of growth rates and to estimate the prewar and postwar population of Paraguay.

Figure 2 describes Paraguayan population with a 1.48 growth rate predicted trend. A curve is created by applying the technique of log-lineal least squares regression to the four Paraguayan censuses that appear to be most accurate. The best-fitting curve is one with a growth rate of 1.48 percent. Thus, the 1,337,000 population figure in 1857 is clearly ruled out as it would be literally off the graph. One can note the population increase from 1796 to 1864, with a decline as a result of the war and renewed growth after the war until 1899. In order for Paraguay to reach a population of 329,645 in 1886 and 490,719 in 1899, with a believable growth rate, the war losses must be under 20 percent.

It is possible, however, to refine the estimate further. If the population in 1846 was between 238,862 and 248,394 (see Table II, above), and the growth rate from 1846 to 1864 was between 1 and 1.5 percent, the population of Paraguay in 1864 was between 285,715 and 318,114. This is supported by household statistics. Also assuming a growth rate of 1.8 to 2.2 during the last part of the century, the population in 1870 was between 261,069 and 292,514, as also noted above. On this basis it is possible to suggest that Paraguay lost between 8.0 and 17.9 percent of its population. It is clear that Paraguay did not lose over 50 percent of its population as has long been held. Yet 17.9 percent, although well below the generally accepted estimates for Paraguayan mortality during the War of the Triple Alliance, is still too high. A look at the actual causes of population loss indicates a more likely mortality rate of 7.5 percent, with an additional 1.2 percent of the prewar population lost due to migration and territorial transfers.

The Causes of Population Loss

The remainder of this article is a discussion of the manner in which Paraguay’s losses occurred. The three categories which will be examined are military deaths resulting from battle and disease, civilian deaths due primarily to disease, and population changes as a result of refugee migration and territorial loss.

The extent of Paraguayan military deaths during the Great War is unknown; it probably did not exceed 5 percent of the total population. In their comparative analysis of battle-connected fatalities among military personnel, including both those killed in combat and those who died from combat wounds or disease contracted in the war zone, David Singer and Melvin Small found that in 93 wars between 1816 and 1965 there were few cases where battle deaths exceeded 2 percent of the prewar population. In general, they found that the highest fatalities came with the increasingly sophisticated weapons of destruction that were available after 1914. For example, in World War I, Romania lost 4.7 percent of its prewar population, while France lost 3.3 percent, Germany 2.7 percent, and Great Britain 2 percent; in World War II, the Soviet Union lost 4.4 percent; and in the Korean War, North Korea lost 5.4 percent of its population. In Latin America, in the Chaco War of 1932-35, Bolivia lost 3.2 percent of its population and Paraguay, while winning, lost 5.6 percent.25 A more extreme case of Latin American population loss is that of Mexico, not in international conflict but in its own twentieth-century revolution, when (taking civilian deaths and emigration into account) it lost about 10 percent of its population.26 It is doubtful that the Paraguayan War could have been much more destructive than that.

The problem of evaluating military mortality in the War of the Triple Alliance is complicated by the unrealistic estimates of Argentine, Brazilian, and Uruguayan troop size. According to an agreement among the allies, Argentina was obligated to contribute 25,000 men, the Banda Oriental 5,000, and Brazil 40,000. At the beginning of 1865, Brazil and Uruguay were apparently 20 percent below the requirement, while Argentina sent less than 50 percent of the required troops. The determination of the Paraguayans and the cost of the war for the allies meant that total allied forces probably never much exceeded the initial numbers, although new troops were sent to replace the wounded, dead, and deserted. In August 1867, the allies numbered approximately 43,500 troops, of which 36,000 were Brazilians, 6,000 Argentines, and 1,500 Uruguayans. Moreover, the lack of food, horses, cattle, and shelter for the army meant that the situation for the allied troops remained difficult.27 In any case, since the exact number of troops sent to fight Paraguay is unknown— and the number has in all likelihood been exaggerated—so it is probable that the military losses of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay have also been magnified. Given the small number of troops that Argentina fielded at any given time, a recent estimate of 30,000 fatalities, or 1.6 percent of total prewar population, is clearly unrealistic. Military losses suggested for Brazil range from 23,917 to 165,000, and the upper ranges are obviously distorted.28

The Paraguayan army in 1864 had 37 battalions and 29 regiments, with a total of 35,305 soldiers and 3,306 officers. Paraguay fielded an army of 30,000 to 40,000 troops at any given time, and inducted into the service no more than 70,000 to 80,000 during the five-year war.29 If 5 percent of the prewar population died in the army from wounds and disease, which is close to the maximum for twentieth-century wars, this would have taken the lives of about 15,000 men. A greater loss of 8 percent of the total population raises the army deaths to 24,000. These figures represent perhaps one-fifth and one-third, respectively, of all the men who served. In comparison to other nineteenth-century wars, both are extremely high, although Paraguayan battlefield losses have generally been considered unusually heavy.

I suggest that the Paraguayan military fatalities during the Great War were in fact in the neighborhood of 5 percent of the total Paraguayan prewar population. This is in line with the lower (and I think more realistic) end of my suggested range for total population loss—8 to 17.9 percent—which was based on both military and civilian losses. The former usually are higher than those of civilians, but the latter naturally have to be taken into account as well. A figure of about 5 percent also seems reasonable in light of the best information on allied troop strength in the conflict. And, although Paraguay did accept the punishment of losing 5.6 percent of its population in the Chaco War, military historians suggest that nations will often surrender before total population loss is greater than 4 percent.30

In addition to battle-connected fatalities, disease among the civilian as well as military populations was most certainly responsible for large numbers of Paraguayan deaths. Observers reported that diseases such as measles, smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera, which had been insignificant in the prewar years, decimated the population during the middle of the war years. These reports, however, were subjective, and there was no accurate count of the numbers who died from disease.31 Although a measles epidemic was reported in Paraguay during the war, in worldwide infectious outbreaks at the time measles was not a statistically significant cause of death.32 In the United States during the Civil War, both measles and typhoid fever were widespread in the Union Army. Together they caused 1.75 percent of the total deaths of enlisted men.33 However, in many cases the deaths attributed to measles resulted from a weakened state caused by battle wounds or other diseases. Typhoid fever, although an important cause of death in the nineteenth century, was rare in Paraguay. On the other hand, respiratory diseases were common, and in 1865, 25 percent of the troops in Paraguayan military hospitals had either pneumonia or unspecified high fevers, while almost one-half had dysentery or diarrhea. Although in 1865 the military hospitals were well supplied with drugs, between 1 and 9 percent of any given group admitted died; yet the average was less than 4 percent, which compares well with the mortalities in the Brazilian squadron hospital.34

Smallpox, a major cause of death in the eighteenth century, appears to be a statistically insignificant cause of death during the Great War. Both measles and smallpox were most destructive of the lives of children, although adult mortalities might increase if individuals had not been exposed to measles as children or vaccinated against smallpox. There had been a successful vaccination campaign in Paraguay in 1805-1806. During the Francia regime, there was little effort to continue the program, and a major smallpox epidemic occurred from October 1844 through September 1845. Mortality varied with regions, from a low of 2.5 percent to a high of 9.5 percent. It was highest in the rural districts. In Indian areas, the mortality rates were double or triple those of other regions. For the population as a whole, mortality ran about 6.82 percent.35

During the Carlos Antonio López administration, there were major campaigns to assure the vaccination of the population. A light outbreak of smallpox in 1853 and 1854 was used by the government to convince the population of the importance of the measure. The government continued a limited program of vaccination of people of all ages and revaccination even during the war years. In 1867, smallpox hit that part of the population which had not been vaccinated in Paraguay. Although drought, disease, famine, and war might increase smallpox mortalities, one has to conclude that, as a result of vaccination programs, mortality from smallpox was relatively insignificant in Paraguay.36

Cholera first appeared in Latin America in the nineteenth century, and was introduced from Europe, so that seaports were most affected. Although distance and poor communications tended to slow its penetration of the continent, the Great War and the resulting movement of people encouraged its spread. Cholera brought from Rio de Janeiro thus made its appearance soon after the smallpox epidemic, and killed allied soldiers and Paraguayans alike. The Paraguayan government sought to quarantine the infected, but deaths in the army—where the presence of cholera raised great alarm—may have run as high as 40 to 60 a day. After spreading from Humaitá to Curuguaty, cholera at the beginning of 1868 reached the city of Asunción and from there spread to neighboring towns. Mortality was high among the poor because of inadequate sanitary conditions, and possibly as many as two thousand women and children perished in the capital. Yet there is evidence to suggest that cholera was more detrimental to the allied troops than to the Paraguayan civilian and military population.37

The actual mortality rates for cholera in Paraguay are unknown, and recent demographic work indicates that contemporary observers generally overestimated the number of deaths within given communities. However, since cholera was also brought to Buenos Aires from Rio and deaths in Argentina were running between 1.0 and 2.3 percent of the population from 1866 to 1868, it is perhaps reasonable to assume similar mortalities for the Paraguayan case.38

When the Brazilian troops finally occupied Asunción in 1869, they brought with them one more disease, yellow fever, which had been unknown in Paraguay. Yellow fever was not as catastrophic as smallpox or cholera had been, although major outbreaks could lead to an increase in death rates of 5 to 25 percent over the normal yearly figures, and as high as 6 percent of the population could die in port cities such as Veracruz and Rio de Janeiro.39 Asunción, of course, was a river port, but it had a small population, made even smaller by evacuation in the face of allied invasion. This fact, combined with the fact that yellow fever was not common to the area, kept the resulting mortality rate below 1 percent of the population.

Most useful for an analysis of disease and death among both the civilian and military population is the work of Carlos Frederico Santos Xavier Azevedo. He was the attending physician for the Brazilian river squadron in the campaign of Paraguay from 1864 to 1869. Azevedo evaluated illnesses, diseases, and surgery, as well as death and recovery among the 5,445 members of the squadron and the 30,000 Brazilian troops. The major causes of death in 1865 and 1866 were bronchitis, pneumonia, dysentery, fevers, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, and gangrene. Although these diseases and infections continued to take their toll during the rest of the war, cholera was the leading source of mortality in 1867, when 9 percent of those who were treated in the various hospitals died. In the hospital of Humaitá in 1869, 10 percent of those entering died.40 All these figures refer, of course, to Brazilian military casualties, but they do help to pinpoint the principal causes of death from disease in wartime Paraguay. With respect to the Paraguayan military in particular, the mortality rates in Paraguayan military hospitals early in the conflict, as noted above, compared favorably with Brazilian figures. On the other hand, as conditions deteriorated later in the struggle, one would expect the Paraguayan rates to be at least as high or higher.

The evidence presented suggests that diseases were the cause of most mortalities for both the military and the civilian population. In most cases, nineteenth-century epidemics did not tend to reverse population growth but rather contributed to population stabilization. Nevertheless, wartime conditions of bad sanitation, crowding, and malnutrition resulted in lowered physical resistance and normally increased all mortality rates.41 It surely can be concluded that mortality due to diseases during the war could have reduced the Paraguayan population by as much as 4 percent in the years from 1864 to 1870. There is an outside chance that deaths ran as high as 7 percent if one assumes cholera deaths at 1 to 3 percent of the population, yellow fever at .5 to 1 percent, and other diseases, particularly diarrhea and dysentery, above normal death rates at 1 to 3 percent of the population from 1864 to 1870.

Of course, one other cause of death during the Great War was the series of executions of real or imaginary political enemies ordered by Francisco Solano López, particularly near the end of the war. These can really be considered part of the war casualties, though a rather minor part. In political and human terms the deaths of various political figures, including members of López’s own family, were tragic, but the number was statistically insignificant—however much the drama by which the victims tales were told may have tended to encourage the acceptance of inflated wartime mortality rates.42

To be sure, military deaths and civilian mortalities due to disease (or execution) do not account for Paraguay’s total population loss. Significant numbers of Paraguayans also left Paraguay during or as a result of the war. The Paraguayan Association, an exile group, reported 2,000 refugees in December 1864 in Argentina. At best, that was a guess which would have included long-established fugitives from the López regime along with more recent arrivals and entirely neglected Paraguayan refugees in other countries.43 But the number certainly increased after 1864. The Argentine census of 1869 records 3,730 Paraguayans in Argentina. Moreover, given the economic and political problems in postwar Paraguay, one would expect that exiles probably delayed returning home. Corrientes, because of its closeness and both cultural and climatic similarity to Paraguay, would have been particularly likely to attract any peasant Paraguayans who fled the war. The people of Corrientes harbored no hostility toward the Paraguayans, even when they were invaded in 1865, which would have increased the ease with which Paraguayans could settle in that province.44 According to the 1869 census for the province of Corrientes, 1,473 individuals out of a population of 129,023 clearly defined themselves as Paraguayans, and still others could have been Paraguayans who simply passed as Correntinos.45 Finally, allied soldiers, when they returned to their homes, often took with them Paraguayan wives and children. For example, one hundred men of the Uruguayan division that participated in the war returned to Montevideo in 1869 bringing with them three hundred women and children.46 If, then, one estimates a minimum population migration of .5 percent to Argentina and less than .5 percent to other South American countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay, the resulting loss of Paraguayan population might have been 1 percent and could conceivably have reached 3 percent of the prewar population.

It should also be noted that as a result of the war Paraguay lost 38 percent of its prewar territory. Parts of the present-day Argentine provinces of Formosa and Misiones and the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso had traditionally formed part of Paraguay or had been colonized by Paraguay during the nineteenth century.47 However, the Paraguayan household census of 1864 suggests that the regions in which these lost territories were included held only 4 percent of the total population of the country. And, because the parts of each region ceded were lightly populated, it may be assumed that less than .5 percent of the prewar population was lost with territorial concessions.48

Finally, many of the conclusions about Paraguayan mortality due to the war have been based on arguments of famine. Crop production did decline between 1863 and 1867, but the greatest decline was in the less-essential crops and not in corn, manioc, and beans (see Table V). During the war, one or two yoke of oxen were left to the women of each household so that they could plough the ground and plant corn and manioc. Thus, the allied blockade was hardest on foreigners who were short of wine, flour, bread, and oil, while Paraguayans continued to harvest basic food crops. Although the price of food increased in the capital, it was because of the scarcity of transport, the demand for food in the army, and eventually the decreasing value of Paraguayan currency.49 Martin T. McMahon, who arrived as the U.S. representative in Paraguay in December 1868, noted that the capital and most of the population had been moved 70 miles from Asunción, and that there was a scarcity of food. But, he added, with orders to plant, the whole country seemed to be producing crops, and a good harvest of corn, manioc, and vegetables was expected.50

A population which is primarily agricultural and peasant is best able to survive off the land. And although crop production statistics suggest a more serious decline in 1868, this may have been as much an indication of the breakdown of the bureaucracy in calculating crop yields as an actual decline in the basic necessities of life. The government also sought to provide for those families who had to leave their homes because of fighting in the district. As late as March 31, 1868, it published a decree ordering the treasury to provide public funding for necessities for those who were forced to flee the war zones.51 It is impossible to say what effect this had, but at least the intent to ameliorate local hardships was present.

An examination of sex ratios after the war provides additional evidence that mortality due to the war was lower than often assumed. The census of 1886 reported that there were three female Paraguayans for each male over 30 years, and not the ten-to-one ratio that is often suggested. There is some evidence that an imbalance between men and women as a result of differential indigenous assimilation may go back to the colonial era, and certainly the prominence of women in postwar economic life cannot be taken as proof of demographic catastrophe. According to the census of 1846, women headed families in 34 to 40 percent of the cases, and they were important before the war in the administration of property and other aspects of the economy. They simply continued this significant position through the war and into the postwar years, in agriculture, in artisan industries, and as the main suppliers and retailers in local markets. This element of continuity in women’s roles provides additional reason to question the more extreme estimates of population loss.52

In conclusion, although Paraguayan mortality rates were high in relation to other wars within the last century and a half, the total loss was far below a majority of the population. Census figures and calculated population growth rates, as noted above, suggest a range of 8.0- to 17.9-percent loss due to the war. Figure 3 portrays Paraguayan population loss during the Great War according to likely specific causes, including both military and civilian deaths as well as refugee migration to other nations and the consequences of territorial cessions. Calculating military fatalities of 5 percent of the prewar population, 2.5-percent civilian mortality due to disease, and 1.2-percent loss due to migration and territory ceded to Argentina and Brazil, Paraguay’s total loss comes to 8.7 percent of its prewar population. If one takes the highest reasonable estimate in each case, Paraguay could have lost as much as 18.5 percent of its prewar population. To arrive at this figure, however, one must suppose either that military deaths greatly exceeded those in the most destructive twentieth-century wars or that civilian deaths represented a larger percentage of total deaths than did military deaths, which seems unrealistic for the nineteenth century.

An instructive comparison is offered by the conclusion of Salvador Rodríguez Losa about the Caste War in Yucatán, between 1846 and 1850. He argued that the population was not reduced by 50 percent, as often said, but rather that the inclination to suggest such a high population loss was due to inaccurate census data, major epidemics of cholera, smallpox, and yellow fever after the war, and large internal and external migration.53 Without question, the demographic impact of the Paraguayan War has been unduly magnified in the same way, even though the reasons for the distortion are not exactly similar in the two cases.

This reinterpretation of the death rates for Paraguay during the Great War has broader implications for the history of Paraguay and nineteenth-century Latin America. Clearly, there needs to be some reexamination of the government and military campaigns of the Francisco Solano López regime. During his administration, Paraguay was successfully able to fight a war for five years against three countries whose combined population was 38 times greater than its own.54 This suggests that the Paraguayan polity and economy were basically healthy and extremely resilient. Moreover, in the end Paraguay achieved its principal goal—which was to retain its autonomy, despite the hostile states that sought to dismember it.

Historians and others have long believed that by 1864 Paraguay contained more than 1,300,000 people (with an average family consisting of as many as 10 or 12 children), that Brazil sent over 100,000 troops up the Paraná River to fight the Paraguayans, and that battle fatalities were monumental. From such errors of fact came the conclusion that Paraguay lost over half its population during the Great War. Barbara Tuchman explained this phenomenon well in A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. “Disaster,” she said, “is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place…. The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five to tenfold.”55


Most scholarly interpretations argue that the reasons for the War of the Triple Alliance can be found in the historic relationships among Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, and the efforts of those nations to preserve a balance of power in the region. However, there is still a great deal of disagreement as to causes of the war. For example, George Thompson, The War in Paraguay (London, 1869), as well as Charles J. Kolinski, Independence or Death! The Story of the Paraguayan War (Gainesville, 1965). 12 and Pelham H. Box, The Origins of the Paraguayan War, reprint ed. (New York, 1967), tend to blame Francisco Solano López. For sources that see the policies of Argentina and its President Bartolomé Mitre more to blame, see Atilio García y Mellid, Proceso a los falsificadores de la historia del Paraguay, 2 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1963-64); Germán O. E. Tjarks, “Nueva luz sobre el origen de la Guerra de la Triple Alianza,” Revista de Historia (Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica), 1:1 (July–Dec. 1975), 21-84; F. J. McLynn, “The Causes of the War of the Triple Alliance: An Interpretation,” Inter-American Economic Affairs, 33:2 (Autumn 1979), 21-43; Fermín Chávez, Historia del país de los argentinos, 3rd ed. (Buenos Aires, 1983); and Luis Alberto de Herrera, Antes y después de la Triple Alianza, 2 vols. (Montevideo, 1951-52). For interpretations which blame the internal political conflicts of Uruguay for the war, see Juan José Cresto, La correspondencia que engendró una guerra: Nuevos estudios sobre los orígenes de la guerra con Paraguay (Buenos Aires, 1974) and Alicia Vidaurreta, “La emigración uruguaya en Argentina (1862-1863),” Revísta Histórica: Instituto Histórico de la Organización Nacional (Buenos Aires), 2:6 (Jan.-June 1980), 167-205. Carlos Pereyra, Francisco Solano López y la guerra del Paraguay (Buenos Aires, 1953) placed heavy responsibility for the war on Brazil.

A number of Marxist and revisionist historians such as León Pomer, La guerra del Paraguay: Gran negocio! (Buenos Aires, 1968); Vivián Trias, El Paraguay de Francia el Supremo a la Guerra de la Triple Alianza (Buenos Aires, 1975); and José Alfredo Fornós Peñalba, “Draft Dodgers, War Resisters, and Turbulent Gauchos: The War of the Triple Alliance Against Paraguay,” The Americas, 38:4 (Apr. 1982), 463-479 blame foreign interests, particularly the British, for the war and its duration.

Finally, for examples of balance-of-power theories, see Efraím Cardozo, Vísperas de la guerra del Paraguay (Buenos Aires, 1954); Ramón Cárcano, Guerra del Paraguay: Acción y reacción de la Triple Alianza, 2 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1941); and José María Rosa, La guerra del Paraguay y las montoneras argentinas, 4th ed. (Buenos Aires, 1974), 9-10.


To note how widely accepted this information is, see three examples: E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 2d ed. (New York, 1980), 235; John E. Mueller, “The Search for the ‘Breaking Point’ in Vietnam: The Statistics of a Deadly Quarrel,” International Studies Quarterly, 24:4 (Dec. 1980), 508, n. 15; and Harris Gaylord Warren, Paraguay and the Triple Alliance: The Postwar Decade, 1869-1878 (Austin, 1978), 32.


Although the amount of research in historical demography of Latin America has increased dramatically in the last 20 years—as indicated by the fact that the Handbook of Latin American Studies: Humanities, vol. XLII (Austin, 1980) contains over 50 references under demography and population while vol. XXVI, published in 1960, contains no entries—the number of studies on the 1810-70 era remain few. Works such as Sherburne F. Cook and Woodrow Borah, Essays in Population History, 3 vols. (Berkeley, 1971-79), which sought to deal with Mexico from 1517 to 1960, have been strongest in the precolonial and colonial eras. Other works such as David J. Robinson, ed.. Studies in Spanish American Population History (Boulder, 1981) and Robinson, ed., Social Fabric and Spatial Structure in Colonial Latin America (Ann Arbor, 1979) have provided solid studies of the eighteenth century, but basically ignored the nineteenth.

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints has recently done an outstanding job of collecting Paraguayan parish records. In 1976, it possessed only one reel on the nineteenth century, and by 1987 it had several hundred reels. For historical demographers of Paraguay, however, the records are extremely disappointing. The parish records are incomplete, and there is no way to reconstruct a census from them. The baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death records provide so little information that it is impossible to derive from them either population growth or family size. Baptism rarely occurred in the year of birth. In baptism and marriage, only the individuals directly involved were noted. Death and confirmation records seldom listed immediate family.


Emmanuel de Bourgade la Dardye, Paraguay: The Land and the People, Natural Wealth, and Commercial Capabilities (London, 1892), 101-102.


John Hoyt Williams, “Observations on the Paraguayan Census of 1846,” HAHR, 56:3 (Aug. 1976), 436. Williams’s purpose, similar to mine, was to revise downward population estimates for the 1860s.


Six sources were particularly useful in the calculation of growth rates for nineteenth-century Latin America. Eduardo E. Arriaga, New Life Tables for Latin American Populations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Berkeley, 1968); Marcello Carmagnani, “Colonial Latin American Demography: Growth of Chilean Population, 1700-1830,” Journal of Social History, 1:2 (Winter 1967); Richard E. Boyer and Keith A. Davies, Urbanization in Nineteenth-Century Latin America: Statistics and Sources, Supplement to the Statistical Abstract of Latin America (Los Angeles, 1973); J. D. Durand, “The Modern Expansion of World Populations,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 111:3 (June 22, 1967), 136-159; Nicolás Sánchez-Albornoz, The Population of Latin America W. A. R. Richardson, trans. (Berkeley, 1974); and Kalmán Tekse, Population and Vital Statistics, Jamaica, 1832-1964: A Historical Perspective (Kingston, 1974).


Carmagnani, in his “Colonial Latin American Demography,” 185-188 reports a growth rate for Chile of 2.3 percent between 1815 and 1835 because of the assimilation of the Indian population. A conversation on Apr. 4, 1987 with James Saeger, who is completing a manuscript on the Paraguayan indigenous population of the eighteenth century, was particularly helpful on the topic of assimilation. The Indian populations can be divided into three groups: those who were completely outside the Paraguayan society with little or no contact, those who impinged on mestizo society through military attacks, and those who were part of the society because they lived in the missions or provided produce and labor to the general Paraguayan population. Only the latter group has been included in the census data, with the possible exception of 1857. Thus, the debate should not be over whether there were unassimilated, uncounted Indian populations, but how rapidly assimilation occurred in the nineteenth century and how much this increased the growth rate. The best discussion on the nineteenth-century indigenous population can be found in Branislava Susnik, Los aborígenes del Paraguay: Etnohistoria de los chagueños 1650-1910, 3 vols. (Asunción, 1978-81), III, 43-46, 99-101, 131-136, 139-142, 146-147, 161, 170, 186. Also see Gordon to earl of Aberdeen, Hampton, Wick, Apr. 29, 1843, Public Record Office, London (hereafter PRO), Foreign Office section (hereafter FO) 13/202, pp. 97-98; R. B. Hughes to Hood, Montevideo, Mar. 18, 1842, PRO, FO 51/20; Marion McMurrough Mulhall, From Europe to Paraguay and Matto-Grosso (London, 1877), 61-62; Johann Rudoph Rengger, The Reign of Doctor Joseph Gaspar Roderick de Francia in Paraguay being an Account of a six years’ residence in the Republic (London, 1827), 50-55; Carlos Pastore, La lucha por la tierra en el Paraguay (Montevideo, 1972), 114-115, 127-132; and Thomas J. Page, La Plata, the Argentine Confederation, and Paraguay (New York, 1859), 255; Eco del Paraguay (Asunción), Nov. 20, 1856, p. 349.


Félix de Azara, Descripción e historia del Paraguay y del Río de la Plata (Madrid, 1847), 329-333 details the census of 1792 under Governor Lázaro de Rivera y Espinosa de los Monteros. Also see Olinda Massare de Kostianovsky, “Historia y evolución de la población en el Paraguay,” in Población, urbanización y recursos humanos en el Paraguay, Domingo M. Rivarola and G. Heisecke, eds., 2d ed. (Asunción, 1970), 216. The statistical analysis of the census of 1846 is given in Williams, “Observations on the Paraguayan Census of 1846,” 434-437 and Anneliese Kegler de Galeano, “Alcance histórico-demográfico del censo de 1846,” Revista Paraguaya de Sociología, 18:35 (Jan.-Apr., 1976), 71-121. The census of 1886 is discussed in Massare de Kostianovsky, “Historia y evolución, 228-234; Barbara Ganson de Rivas, Las consecuencias demográficas y sociales de la guerra de la Triple Alianza (Asunción, 1985); Bourgade la Dardye, Paraguay, 104; and Gabriel Carrasco, La población del Paraguay, antes y después de la guerra; Rectificación de opiniones generalmente aceptadas (Asunción, 1905), 9 (which represents the best available analysis of the census of 1899). The Paraguayan census of 1682 is not directly relevant to this article, but provides interesting comparative data; see Rafael Eladeo Velázquez, “La población del Paraguay en 1682,” Revista Paraguaya de Estudios Sociológicos, 9:24 (May-Aug. 1972), 128-145. The household census of 1864-67 (see below) was part of an official government census on crop production.


Azara, Descripción e historia. 329-330 and Geografía física y esférica de las provincias del Paraguay, y misiones guaraníes (Montevideo, 1904), 442. For further discussion of population estimates 1785-96, see Anneliese Kegler Krug, “La población del Paraguay a través de los censos de Azara y Aguirre (1782-1792),” Revista Paraguaya de Sociología, 11:30 (May-Dec. 1974), 190-207 and Williams, “A Problem in Historical Demography, 1785-1810,” Latinamericanist (Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida), 3:12 (Mar. 1968), 1-4. Williams argues that Félix de Azara’s figures for 1785 underestimated Paraguayan population by about 10 percent, and that the population in 1785 was not 94,295, but 103,985. If Williams is correct, this would make the growth rate in the first half of the nineteenth century a more realistic 1.6 percent. Although I am inclined to agree with Williams, Kegler Krug’s later article puts his analysis in question.


Williams, “Observations on the Paraguayan Census of 1846,” 436-437; Massare de Kostianovsky, “Historia y evolución, 219-224; Domingo M. Rivarola, ed., La población del Paraguay (Asunción, 1974), 11; Kegler de Galeano, “Alcance histórico-demográfico,” 71-121.


For a discussion of Jacquet, see Bourgade la Dardye, Paraguay, 104 and Carrasco. La población del Paraguay, 9. Carrasco was fortunate to find the census detailed in a memorandum of the minister of the interior published in 1902 (La población del Paraguay, 3).


The best analysis of these is given in Bourgade la Dardye, Paraguay, 104-108; he checks his analysis by using a 3-percent annual growth rate.


Alfredo M. du Graty, La República del Paraguay, Carlos Calvo, trans. (Besançon, 1862), 133; Pedro Torquato Xavier de Brito, Noticia historica geographica e estatistica da República do Paraguay (Rio de Janeiro, 1865), 13-14.


See Table III for Paraguayan growth rates in the nineteenth century. For the twentieth century, see Sánchez-Albornoz, The Population of Latin America, 185, who estimated Paraguay’s growth rates as 2.3 percent between 1930 and 1940, 1.9 percent between 1940 and 1950, 2.1 percent between 1950 and 1960, and 1.8 percent between 1960 and 1970.


“Population of Paraguay,” Aug. 2, 1872. PRO, FO 59/35, p. 28 and Walcott to Mead, London, Oct. 7, 1872, PRO, FO 59/35, p. 52.


The best discussion of the postwar decades is Warren, Paraguay and the Triple Alliance, 260-286.


For a discussion of households see Ann Hagerman Johnson, “The Impact of Market Agriculture on Family and Household Structure in Nineteenth-Century Chile, HAHR, 58:4 (Nov. 1978), 627; Peter Laslett, ed., “Introduction: The History of the Family,” Household and Family in Past Time (Cambridge, 1972), 26-29; Donald Ramos, “Marriage and the Family in Colonial Vila Rica,” HAHR, 55:2 (May 1975), 204-205 and “City and Country: The Family in Minas Gerais, 1804-1838,” Journal of Family History, 3:4 (Winter 1978), 361-365.


See José Luis Mora Mérida, “La demografía colonial paraguaya,” Jahrbuch fur Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas, 11 (1974), 74 for 1761; Kegler Krug, “La población del Paraguay,” 202-203 for 1792; Williams, “Observations on the Paraguayan Census of 1846,” 433 for 1846; and Kegler de Galeano, “Alcance histórico-demográfico,” 86-88 for 1846.


Although social and demographic history has encouraged research on family and household, and the number of articles in journals has increased, two monographs remain the major source for comparative data: Laslett, Household and Family in Past Time, and W. R. Lee, ed., European Demography and Economic Growth (New York, 1979).


Lyman L. Johnson and Susan Migden Socolow, “Population and Space in Eighteenth-Century Buenos Aires,” Social Fabric and Spatial Structure, Robinson, ed., 366.


Philip J. Greven, “The Average Size of Families and Households in the Province of Massachusetts in 1764 and in the United States in 1790: An Overview,” Household and Family in Past Time, 552; William Kenkel, The Family in Perspective, 4th ed. (Santa Monica, 1977), 216.


Jerry W. Cooney, “Abolition in the Republic of Paraguay: 1840-1870,” Jahrbuch fur Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft and Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas, 11 (1974), 164.


Thomas K. Burch, “Some Demographic Determinants of Average Household Size: An Analytic Approach,” Household and Family in Past Time, 91-92; Ramos, “Marriage and Family,” 200-225.


For Chile, see Johnson, “The Impact of Market Agriculture,” 629-647. Examination of a sample of the 1846 census records in the Paraguayan National Archives indicates some of the problems. For example, see Matrícula de San Lorenzo de Quiindí, 1845, Archivo Nacional Asunción (hereafter ANA), Sección Nueva Encuadernación (hereafter NE), 3290; Matrícula de la Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Milagros de Caacupé, ANA, NE, 3288; Matrícula de la Parroquia de Barrero Grande 1846, ANA, NE, 3289. Also see Kegler de Galeano, “Alcance histórico-demográfico,” 86-88 and Williams, Observations on the Paraguayan Census of 1846,” 427-429.


J. David Singer and Melvin Small, The Wages of War, 1816-1965: A Statistical Handbook (New York, 1972), 48-49, (16-69.


Michael C. Meyer and William L. Sheerman, The Course of Mexican History, 2nd ed. (New York, 1983), 553.


Pedro Lorela y Maury to the first minister of state, Oct. 5, 1867, Archivo General del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de España (hereafter AGMEE), Correspondencia Embajadas y Legaciones, Argentina (hereafter CELA), leg. 1349; Carlos Creus to the minister of state, Buenos Aires, May 25, 1865, AGMEE, Política Argentina, 1851-1929, leg. 2313; Lorela y Maury to the minister of state, Dec. 26, 1865, AGMEE, Política Paraguay (hereafter PP), Correspondencia Respecto a la Guerra del Paraguay (hereafter CGP), leg. 2576; Creus to foreign minister, Buenos Aires, May 26, 1865, Oct. 14, 1867, ibid.; Creus to foreign minister, Buenos Aires, July 27, 1865, ibid.; Lorela y Maury, Buenos Aires, May 26, 1866, Feb. 25, Mar. 22, Aug. 12, 1867, Feb. 25, 1868, ibid.; Juan Beverina, La guerra del Paraguay: Las operaciones de la guerra en territorio argentino y brasileño, 7 vols. (Buenos Aires, 1921) is the standard source for the military operations of the war, but his estimates are high and superseded by other archival sources; he is most accurate for Argentina; see I, 193, 218, 239.


For Argentina, see McLynn, “Consequences for Argentina of the War of Triple Alliance, 1865—1870,” The Americas, 41:1 (July 1984), 82. For Brazil, see Warren, Paraguay and the Triple Alliance, 30-31. Carlos Frederico dos Santos Xavier Azevedo, Historia medico-cirurgica da esquadra brasileira nas campanhas do Uruguay, e Paraguay de 1864 a 1869 (Rio de Janeiro, 1870), 188-193, who discussed deaths among those treated in military hospitals, seemed to suggest even lower figures. It is difficult to believe that Brazil could equip and send 100,000 troops to Paraguay, either over land or by ship up the Paraná, in a five-year period since it took 49 steamships and 5 sailing ships to carry one expedition of 5,445 enlisted men up that river. See Azevedo, Historia medico-cirurgica, 122. That the two sides were nearly equally matched, with the allies facing a supply problem and Paraguay a production problem, is a major reason the war lasted so long.


Thompson, The War in Paraguay, 17, 52; Carrasco, La población del Paraguay, 6, and Lorela y Maury to foreign minister, Dec. 26, 1865, AGMEE, PP, CGP, 2576; Cuadro del estado general del ejército,” 1865, ANA, Sección Historia (hereafter SH), 344, no. 22 for the size of the Paraguayan military. The figures given for the maximum number of Paraguayans who saw service at some point during the war would represent about 25 percent of my population estimates for 1864 of between 285,715 and 318,114. Obviously, Paraguay faced a manpower shortage by 1868, for the early drafts inducted those most eligible and the male population was small in comparison with that of the allies.


Frank L. Klingberg, “Predicting the Termination of War: Battle Casualties and Population Losses,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, 10:2 (June 1966), 168.


See the following sources for a discussion of diseases in Paraguay during the war: Thompson, War in Paraguay, 189; “Report on the present political, financial, and social state of the Republic of Paraguay,” Oct. 30, 1875, PRO, FO 6/328, pp. 88-89: George F. Master-man, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay. A Narrative of Personal Experience Amongst the Paraguayans, 2nd ed. (London, 1869), 165, 311; Laurent Crochelet to Marquis de Mauster, May 31, 1867, Archives du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Paris (hereafter AMAE), Correspondance Politique (hereafter CP), Paraguay, IV; Cuverville to Marquis de Moustian, Asunción, Feb. 15, 1868, AMAE, Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale, Assoinption, lb 355.


Masterman, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay, 311 reports a measles epidemic, but gives no idea of mortality. An examination of studies done on measles in other parts of the world during the nineteenth century suggests that measles would not have been a major cause of death. See Cook and Borah, Essays on Population History, II, Mexico and the Caribbean (Berkeley, 1974), 365-366, 422; J. H. L. Cumpston, The History of Diphtheria, Scarlet Fever, Measles, and Whooping Cough in Australia (Canberra, 1972); Charles Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain, II, From Extinction of the Plague to the Present Time, 2nd ed. (New York, 1965), 673; Christabel Young, “Epidemics of Infectious Diseases in Australia Prior to 1914,” in The Great Mortalities: Methodological Studies of Demographic Crises in the Past, Humbert Charbonneau and André Larose, eds. (Liège, 1984), 221-222.


Friedrich Prinzing, Epidemics Resulting from Wars (Oxford, 1916), 5.


Domingo José Freire, Junior, “Noticias clinicas da campanha do Paraguay, Revista Medica, 1 (Jan. 1873), 69; Prinzing, Epidemics Resulting from Wars, 8; report by Venancio López, Asunción May 5, 1865, ANA, NE 3416; “Razón de los señores oficiales y tropas enfermos en el hospital,” various months in 1865, ANA, NE 638. Miguel Ángel de Marco, “La sanidad militar argentina en la guerra del Paraguay (1865—1890), Revista Histórica: Instituto Histórico de la Organización Nacional, 3:9 (Buenos Aires, 1981), 55-86 is a fine descriptive source on the medical and sanitary conditions of the Argentine military during the war, with occasional references to Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. However, there is no analysis of the effectiveness of the medical services.


Sánchez-Albornoz, The Popidation of Latin America, 119-121; Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain, II, 125-126; Cook and Borah, Essays in Population History, II, 422; Prinzing, Epidemics Resulting from Wars, 9; “Smallpox in Brazil,” Medical Times and Gazette: A Journal of Medical Science, 1 (1879), 156; Donald R. Hopkins, Princes and Peasants: Smallpox in History (Chicago, 1983), 8, 223-226. For Paraguay, see Cooney, Smallpox Treatment in Colonial Paraguay,” Southeastern Latinamericanist, 26:1 (June 1982), 8-9. The calculation of mortality in the smallpox epidemic of 1844-45 was based on deaths in various districts listed in “Fallecidos de viruela,” 1845, ANA, NE 805.


“Administración de Vacuna,” El Semanario (Asunción), Sept. 30, 1854; “La Viruela, ibid., Sept. 22, 1860; “Vacuna,” ibid., Oct. 18, 1862. Also see “Razón de los innoculados por el Doctor Inglés en el Hospital de Caridad,” Apr. 1867, ANA, NE 3323.


Sánehez-Albornoz, The Population of Latin America, 174-175; Lovela y Maury to the first minister of state, Oct. 5, 1867, AGMEE, CELA, 1349.


A good example of the inclination of primary observers to overestimate the deaths due to cholera can be noted in the correspondence of Lovela y Maury to secretary of state, Buenos Aires, Apr. 27 and May 10, 1867, Jan. 24 and Feb. 4, 1868, AGMEE, CELA, 1349. Deaths from cholera in specific towns were said to vary from a few percent to 30 percent. Dionisio González Torres, “Centenario del cólera en el Paraguay, Historia Paraguaya, 11 (1966), 31-32 particularly argues that the death rate due to cholera was exaggerated. The best source available for Argentina is José Penna, El cólera en la República Argentina (Buenos Aires, 1897). Also see Nicolás Besio Moreno, Buenos Aires puerto del Río de la Plata, capital de la Argentina: Estudio crítico de su población 1536-1936 (Buenos Aires, 1939), 136-175. The subject is covered in a number of medical journals of the time, such as Cólera en el ejército argentino,” Revista Médico-Quirúrgica, 4 (1867), 211, 228, 243; T. J. Hutchinson, “El cólera en el Rosario: Informe sobre la epidemia en el Rosario durante el mes de abril de 1867,” ibid., 4 (1867), 106, 115; “Contribución al estudio del cólera en 1874,” ibid., 10(1874), 393 and 11 (1874), 11. The cholera epidemic of 1867-68 is also discussed in The Brazil and River Plate Mail, Feb. 7, 1868, p. 4, Feb. 22, 1868, p. 7, and Mar. 7, 1868, p. 7.


Sánchez-Albornoz, The Population of Latin America, 173-174. In Veracruz, 2 to 3 percent of the population died in 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, 1866, 1867, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1878, 1880, and 1891, while 4 to 5 percent died in 1809, 1810, 1881, and 1883, according to Miguel E. Bustamente Vasconcelos, La fiebre amarilla en México y su origen en América (Mexico City, 1958), 157-158. One to 3 percent of the population of Rio de Janeiro died in 1850, 1873, 1891, 1892, and 1894 according to Odair Franco, História da febre-amarela no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1969), 43. Miguel Ángel Scenna, Cuando murió Buenos Aires: 1871 (Buenos Aires, 1974), is an exhaustive monograph on the yellow fever epidemic of 1871, stating that 20,748 persons died in Buenos Aires in 1871, three times the normal mortalities. This estimate is of interest as it is lower than previously accepted ones, although it still suggests that almost 12 percent of the population of the city of Buenos Aires died in 1871, 9 percent more than would be usual.


Azevedo, Historia medico-cirurgica, 27, 188-193, 234-235, 244-245, 391, 395, 400, 404-405, 465-469.


González Torres, “Centenario del cólera en el Paraguay, 31-45 argues that the major cause of death during the war was diarrhea and dysentery.


Alicia Vidaurreta de Tjarks, “Al margen de la Guerra del Paraguay, Trabajos y Comunicaciones, 18 (La Plata, 1968), 254-255. Masterman, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay is a good example.


Juan Bautista Gill Aguínaga, La Asociación Paraguaya en la Guerra de la Triple Alianza (Buenos Aires, 1959), 113.


McLynn, “Consequences for Argentina of War,” 84.


Argentine Republic, Comisión Directiva del Censo, Primer denso de lo República Argentina, verificado en los días 15, 16, 17 de setiembre de 1869 (Buenos Aires, 1872), 189 and Andrés Flores Colombino, “Reseña histórica de la migración paraguaya, Revista Paraguaya de Sociología, 4:8/9 (Jan./Aug. 1967), 97. See also Mulhall, Handbook of the River Plate Republics Comprising Buenos Aires and the Provinces of the Argentine Republic and the Republics of Uruguay and Paraguay (London, 1885), 274.


Flores Colombino, “Reseña histórica de la migración,” 97.


Herrera, Antes y después, 371.


It is extremely difficult to calculate the population lost because of territorial concessions. However, if one juxtaposes a map of districts against the treaty concessions as illustrated by Warren, Paraguay and the Triple Alliance, 259, it can he noted that Brazil obtained parts of the districts of Salvador, Horqueta, Tacuatí, Lima, and Igatimí, which included 1,990 households in 1864. Argentina obtained parts of the districts of Trinidad and Encarnación, which included 156 households, as well as parts of the districts of San Juan Nepomuceno and Caaguazú, along with the territory between Río Pilcomayo and Río Bermejo. The parts of the districts ceded had little population and certainly no towns. Hence, the percentage of prewar population lost was probably under .2 percent.


Charles A. Washburn, The History of Paraguay with Notes of Personal Observations and Reminiscences of Diplomacy Under Difficulty, 2 vols. (Boston, 1871), II, 177; Laurent Cochelet to Drouyns de Lhuys, July 5, 1866, and Cuverville to Moustier, June 20, 1868, AMAE, Paraguay, IV; El Semanario de Avisos y Conocimientos Útiles (Asunción), July 13, 1867; Francisco Berg to the senior minister of government, Jan. 31, 1868, ANA, SH, 356, no. 31.


U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Memorial of Porter C. Bliss and George F. Masterman in Relation to their Imprisonment in Paraguay (Washington, 1870), 223.


AMAE, CP, Paraguay, IV, 228.


For a short, fine study on the demographic and social consequences of the war see Ganson de Rivas, Las consecuencias demográficas y sociales, 1, 8-12, 21, 31.


Salvador Rodríguez Losa, “Población y ‘Guerra de Castas’,” Revista de la Universidad de Yucatán, 20:120 (Nov./Dec. 1978), 133-135.


This number is based on the following assumptions: that Argentina’s population was 1,737,076 in 1869 (Boyer and Davies, Urbanization in 19th-Century Latin America, 5); that Brazil’s population was 10,112,961 in 1872 (ibid., 19); that Uruguay’s population was 375,000 in 1875 (Simon G. Hanson, Utopia in Uruguay: Chapters in the Economic History of Uruguay [New York, 1938], 8); and that Paraguay’s population was 318,114 in 1864.


Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (New York, 1978), xviii.

Author notes


I would like to thank William Bassin, John Coatsworth, and John Offner for their valuable comments on various versions of this article. The Postdoctoral Fellow Program of the Tinker Foundation, the Summer Seminars for College Teachers of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Social Science Research Council made this research possible.