This is a political biography of Flores (1800-64), the first president of Ecuador. It studies his activities in Quito during the Gran Colombian period, his administrations (1830-34 and 1839-45), the “Revolution of the Chihuahuas,” and the presidency of Vicente Rocafuerte. It also focuses on Flores’s exile, during which he organized an abortive expedition against Ecuador in 1846, his return to his adoptive country, and his collaboration with the authoritarian regime of García Moreno. The book is not a history of Ecuador to 1864, for its aim is to show how Flores, a professed monarchist, came to think that Ecuador was ungovernable under republican forms, and how he became “the center of a major plot to restore monarchy in South America” (p. 8). In so doing, Van Aken also shows that monarchism was a much more important force than commonly thought, not only in Ecuador, but also throughout Latin America.

King of the Night (the ironic title bestowed on Flores by a contemporary Peruvian writer) is carefully researched using a wide variety of sources, among them the British, French, and Spanish diplomatic correspondence. Flores and his inner circle surrounded their plans with such secrecy that they were able to deceive both their political opponents and modern historians. Their invitations to establish thrones and protectorates in South America, however, had to be addressed to European governments, and the diplomatic files contain the richest wealth of information on monarchical plots. By using them wisely, Van Aken has rescued from the realm of rumor and hearsay the important theme of Latin American monarchism, a topic he first addressed in his previous book Pan-Hispanism: Its Origin and Development to 1866, which has a chapter on Flores’s projected 1846 expedition. (Another recent work treats the same subject: Ana Gimeno, Una tentativa monárquica en América: El caso ecuatoriano.)

King of the Night, moreover, has accomplished something else: a balanced biography of Flores. Both leftist and rightist Ecuadorian historians, like Roberto Andrade and Gustavo Vásconez Hurtado, have allowed partisanship to guide their accounts. The more objective studies about Flores and his times, like those by Luis Robalino Dávila and Pedro Fermín Cevallos, are now dated and ignore important aspects of the story.

Van Aken’s is therefore a welcome addition to the historical literature. Well written, highly readable, and very informative, it shows that there still is ample room for political biography and is destined to have a positive impact on historiography, especially after the Banco Central del Ecuador publishes the Spanish-language edition, now in preparation.