In this book Mücke traces the historical development of the Partido Civil, Peru’s first modern political party with distinct organizational structures and a clear political program. But the author goes beyond writing a simple party history. His study is a thorough political history of Peru from the 1860s to the War of the Pacific, and it is filled with previously untouched archival material and challenging interpretations. Mücke’s approach differs from that of some other recent studies of the nineteenth-century political history of Peru. Instead of focusing on political ideals, or on the economic ideas and notions of progress promoted by party representatives, Mücke is interested in the development of organizational structures, mechanisms of political mobilization, the meaning of elections, and the relationship between party representatives in government positions and their partisans at the local and regional levels.

The main thesis of this study is that the Partido Civil, which developed from a Lima electoral club of the 1860s to a national political party in 1871, was not based on a strong party apparatus, but that it relied on its representatives in parliament and on electoral clubs, which existed all over the country. By financially assisting local clubs or providing propaganda material, party leaders tried to control and to coordinate political action and to assure support for particular candidates. According to the author, the Partido Civil was a “party of notables” (Honoratiorenpartei) in the Weberian sense. But the power of the notables was limited by their dependency on the loyalty of the party's clubs throughout the country.

Mücke deals with three major issues. First, by describing the development of what he calls a modern bourgeoisie and a civil society, and by presenting the key political ideas and demands of this Lima bourgeoisie, Mücke outlines the historical development and the social composition of the Partido Civil. Second, he devotes a chapter to analyzing elections and electoral campaigns in Lima and the provinces and shows how local political clubs were systematically established and maintained. Finally, for the period after 1872, when Manuel Pardo was elected president, Mücke turns his attention to the relationship between party officials in government positions and the party’s rank and file. By analyzing Pardo’s correspondence with regional party leaders, Mücke impressively presents the clientelistic relations between party members.

There are two particularly strong elements of Der Partido Civil. One is that the author effectively demonstrates how the party mobilized voters and established roots in the hinterland. This analysis contains findings that will greatly enrich debates over the meaning and significance of elections in nineteenth-century Latin America. The other strength of the book is its analysis of how Pardo attempted to stabilize his power as president by attracting groups such as artisans to his party and by attempting to maintain good relations with provincial supporters. Mücke nicely shows that provincial party members were not subordinate to Lima officials but, instead, were well aware of the fact that the Lima party depended on their loyalty. The book’s arguments are convincingly supported by numerous graphs and tables and by informative statistical appendixes.

Minor shortcomings of this book are due to the fact that it is the author’s unchanged dissertation. Some parts sound like an introduction to Peruvian history and others are so filled with detail that the reader tends to lose the thread of the argument. But these flaws could easily be corrected if, as it deserves, this book is translated into English or Spanish.

In my view, this is one of the most important books written on the political history of nineteenth-century Peru in recent years.