The Military Institution in Colonial Latin America
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0034
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0034
For much of the colonial epoch, there was limited danger of a major invasion and occupation of a Spanish American province. However, the wars of Europe in the 18th century became true global conflicts. During the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), the British illustrated their military, naval, and financial capabilities by undertaking large-scale invasions and occupations. In the negotiations that followed the 1762 British occupation of Havana, the Spanish were desperate to regain control. To do so, they had to give up sovereignty over Florida. These disasters compelled the Spanish imperial government to establish much stronger military forces in the overseas American provinces. After much discussion, the imperial military authorities decided to apply the Spanish system of provincial and urban militia units. In 1764, the captain-general of Andalusia, Lieutenant General Juan de Villalba y Angulo, was sent to reorganize the defenses of New Spain. By the 1790s the Spanish American provinces had small regular army forces of infantry, dragoons, and cavalry, backed by larger numbers of provincial militia regiments and battalions. During wartime, epidemics of vómito negro (yellow fever) killed or invalided many unacclimatized soldiers stationed in tropical climates at Veracruz, Havana, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, the organization of provincial militias, comprising disease-resistant criollos (whites), mestizos, and mulattoes, served to strengthen the defenses and deter enemy invasions. However, many Spanish administrators and army officers opposed the arming and training of potentially untrustworthy militiamen. In 1808, metropolitan Spain fell to Napoleonic invaders, and some Spanish American provinces confronted chaos as the population divided between patriots who desired independence or autonomy and royalists who remained loyal to the Crown. Civil wars destroyed prosperity and pitted royalist and patriot armies against each other. Depending upon the regions, fighting that commenced in 1810 continued until the achievement of independence in 1821 or even 1825. Except in Brazil, which followed a different course, the uprisings gave way to conventional warfare, guerrilla and counterinsurgency struggles, and entrenched banditry and guerrilla-style warfare on the insurgent side, and to brutal counterinsurgency by the royalists.
The military organization and defense of Spanish and Portuguese America from the Seven Years’ War through the Atlantic conflicts before and after the American and French revolutions, through the age of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Spanish American Wars of Independence, is a massive subject; to examine it fully would require years of research by dedicated teams of historians. As a response, military historians (with some exceptions) have focused upon individual Spanish American provinces or Brazil. The Iberians and their subjects in the Americas left behind exceptional archival resources on military matters that have survived until the present. Even with fires, floods, or political turbulence that occasionally damaged or destroyed some archives, many collections are remarkably complete. Marchena Fernández 1992 provides broad overviews of military institutions and ordinances. Albi 1987 is a useful survey of the establishment of the regular and militia forces. Gómez Ruiz and Juanola 1989–2006 provides excellent background materials on the organization of the Bourbon army. Rodríguez O. 1998 is an outstanding synthesis on the epoch of Spanish American independence. Anna 1983 adds an important study on the failure of Spain to satisfy the aspirations of Spanish Americans. Cervera Percy 1992 and Torres 1992 cast new light upon the roles of the Spanish royal navy during the Independence epoch. Hamnett 1997 reexamines the different forms and chronologies of the Ibero-American independence movements. Finally, Archer 2000 presents translated and original contemporary documents and the reinterpretations of recent historians.
Albi, Julio. La Defensa de las Indias (1764–1799). Madrid: Ediciones Cultura Hispanica, 1987.
A succinct introduction to the establishment and operation of 18th-century Spanish regular army and provincial militia forces in Spanish America. Albi includes a useful appendix for 1799 that lists all of the regular forces (tropas veteranas); the disciplined provincial infantry, cavalry, and dragoon militias; and the urban militias for all the Spanish American provinces.
Anna, Timothy E. Spain and the Loss of America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
After researching and writing about the independence of Mexico and Peru, Anna returned to the archives to study the Independence epoch from the perspective of the metropolis. His research convinced him that independence was not necessarily inevitable, but stemmed from the failures of individuals who were unable to work out policies that would satisfy Latin Americans who wanted a larger share in decision making.
Archer, Christon I., ed. The Wars of Independence in Spanish America. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2000.
This edited work includes key documents that illustrate the brutal nature of the wars, contemporary views, and recent research by modern scholars on the epoch of Independence. Some of the documents are made available for the first time in English translation.
Cervera Pery, José. La marina española en la emancipación de Hispanoamérica. Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992.
Although the Spanish or royalist naval side of the Wars of Independence is not well known, the navy was important in the transport of troops and arms from Spain to the Americas and in patrolling to stop arms importation and combat insurgent activities at sea. With the loss of the Americas, Spain also lost control over the important Pacific route from Acapulco to Manila.
Gómez Ruiz, Manuel, and Alonso Juanola. El Ejército de los Borbones: Organización, uniformidad, divisas, armamento. 7 vols. Madrid: Servicio Histórico Militar, 1989–2006.
A work on the formation and operation of the different branches of the metropolitan Spanish army during the epoch of the early Bourbon monarchs.
Hamnett, Brian R. “Process and Pattern: A Reexamination of the Ibero-American Independence Movements, 1808–1826.”Journal of Latin American Studies 29.2 (1997): 279–328.
This important article represents a strong effort to reinterpret the complex processes at work during the various independence movements. Hamnett concluded that Mexico was the only new nation that may have represented a vibrant revolutionary tradition.
Marchena Fernández, Juan. Ejército y milicias en el mundo colonial Americano. Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992.
This study by one of the leading Spanish specialists on the military in this period offers a broad overview of the military institutions of Spanish America from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
Rodríguez O., Jaime E. The Independence of Spanish America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
An impressive and carefully researched interpretive overview of the Independence epoch that synthesizes knowledge and adds the author’s own extensive research on the political side. Rodríguez has undertaken extensive studies on the Independence period and organized international conferences of leading specialists.
Torres, Bibiano. La marina en el gobierno y administración de las Indias. Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992.
This useful volume of documents and readings provides background on the naval side of the Spanish American Wars of Independence. Important naval commanders such as Juan Ruiz de Apodaca also served first as captain-general of Cuba and later as the last actual viceroy of New Spain (1816–1821).
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Ancient Andean Textiles
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Andean Music
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Brazil, The
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Atlantic Creoles
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial Legal History of Peru
- Colonial New Granada
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Dependency Theory in Latin American History
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500–1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Dutch in South America and the Caribbean, The
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- From "National Culture" to the "National Popular" and the ...
- Gaucho Literature
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guaraní and Their Legacy, The
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Guatemala (Colonial Period)
- Guatemala (Modern & National Period)
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- José María Arguedas and Early 21st Century Cultural and Po...
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Magical Realism
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Nationalism
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Paz, Octavio
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Ponce de León
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Puerto Rican Literature
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Santo Domingo
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Science and Technology in Modern Latin America
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish American Arab Literature
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Spiritual Conquest of Latin America, The
- Telenovelas and Melodrama in Latin America
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 19th Century and Modernismo Poetry in Spanish America
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Venezuelan Literature
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas