This is the culminating work of Lee Woodward’s career to date. More than a biography, it is a reference work long needed for nineteenth-century Central American history. In my experience since the 1950s, no previous work on a major figure, movement, or country of Central America so thoroughly puts the titled topic to rest with a detailed narrative, an encyclopedic and annotated bibliography of the central and related topics, and professional control of the whole. It provides a benchmark from which to orient the isthmian historical terrain. Most of Woodward’s previous books and articles point toward this one and account for its great depth. Furthermore, most works on prominent isthmian figures or movements leave the reader with the feeling of a Rousseau painting—primal eyes of a central figure staring from the midst of a half-seen and half-understood surrounding jungle. Not this work.

The War of the Mountain (1837–40), that uniquely reactionary mass rebellion, made Rafael Carrera the dominant national caudillo until his death in 1865. That war is presented here with clarity and continuity, as are the discouragingly complex politics of the 1840s that resulted in Carrera’s complete triumph by 1851. All his military campaigns are depicted clearly, as are the politics that lay behind them.

The first section of the book narrates Carrera’s complete career in Central America and the remaining years of the Conservative era to the Liberal revolution of 1871. The last section is divided into six topical chapters covering infrastructure development, economy, finance, social policy, education, and culture. The great depth and breadth of the study allow many political, social, and cultural aspects to be handled with sensitivity. This book should be in every library, public or private, that has a significant commitment to Central American history.