During Spain’s intervention in the War of the American Revolution, Francisco Saavedra served as special agent for Charles III, who vested him with extraordinary powers to facilitate operations against the British and to cooperate with the French. A bright, ambitious young Andalusian, Saavedra was only a junior official in the Secretariat of the Ministry of the Indies when he undertook his mission, but he would one day rise high, becoming minister of the treasury and, later, of state. Francisco Morales Padrón, catedrático emérito of the University of Seville, has edited and introduced the diary that Saavedra kept during his mission, providing useful explanatory footnotes.

Diaries are extremely rare sources for the history of the Spanish empire, and there is nothing quite like Saavedra’s contribution. The narrative contains high adventure, including combat at sea, Saavedra’s capture by the British, his escape from Jamaica, the tense preparations in Havana for the siege of Pensacola, the battle itself, and Saavedra’s dramatic return to Europe to report Rodney’s decisive victory over the French fleet in the Battle of Les Saintes and the consequent cancellation of allied plans to invade Jamaica. An enlightened, widely traveled observer, Saavedra comments on any number of subjects, especially those concerning royal policy. He also wrote valuable descriptions of Cumaná, Jamaica, the routes to Mexico City and Guárico, and the customs of the aboriginals of West Florida. His account of the Battle of Pensacola, given his official perspective, offers fresh insights and new information. Historians of the Revolutionary War also will find revealing the extensive role of Spanish silver in financing French operations, including the Battle of Yorktown.

The late Aileen Moore Topping did a marvelous job of translation and contributed many learned notes. Morales’s introduction provides important information about Saavedra and the court, not the least of which involves his close personal ties with the powerful Gálvez family. Finally, the University of Florida Press did first-rate work in producing the volume.