Bolivar: The Liberator of Latin America

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Simon Bolivar freed no fewer than what were to become six countries—a vast domain some 800,000 square miles in extent—from Spanish colonial rule in savage wars against the then-mightiest military machine on earth. The ferocity of his leadership and fighting earned him the grudging nickname “the devil” from his enemies. His astonishing resilience in the face of military defeat and seemingly hopeless odds, as well his equestrian feat of riding tens of thousands of miles across what remains one of the most ...
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Bolivar: The Liberator of Latin America

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Simon Bolivar freed no fewer than what were to become six countries—a vast domain some 800,000 square miles in extent—from Spanish colonial rule in savage wars against the then-mightiest military machine on earth. The ferocity of his leadership and fighting earned him the grudging nickname “the devil” from his enemies. His astonishing resilience in the face of military defeat and seemingly hopeless odds, as well his equestrian feat of riding tens of thousands of miles across what remains one of the most inhospitable territories on earth, earned him the name Culo de Hierro—Iron Ass—among his soldiers. It was one of the most spectacular military campaigns in history, fought against the backdrop of the Andean mountains, through immense flooded savannahs, jungles, and shimmering deserts. Indeed the war itself was medieval—fought under warlords across huge spaces by horsemen with lances, and infantry with knives and machetes (as well as muskets). It was the last warriors’ war.

Although the creator of the northern half of Latin America, Bolivar inspired the whole continent and still does today. This is Robert Harvey’s astonishing, gripping, and beautifully researched biography of one of South America’s most cherished heroes and one of the world’s most accomplished military leaders, by any standard.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The last of the truly great military commanders before the advent of modern, impersonal warfare, Simón Bolívar led his men through thousands of miles of nearly impassable terrain, undeterred by shattering defeats and unimaginable privations, to liberate six countries from the Spanish Empire. Harvey painstakingly recounts Bolívar's victory against seemingly impossible odds and his subsequent descent into the type of megalomaniacal tyranny against which he had fought. Harvey (Liberators), a former British MP and columnist for the Daily Telegraph, makes extensive use of primary sources to chronicle the trials of Bolívar's men, crafting a narrative that is granular in its focus on the war's day-by-day progress while remaining cognizant of the grand sweep of history. The book's single-minded attention to tactical matters and military maneuvers, however, is sometimes reminiscent of the box score of a baseball game, and often leaves the reader wanting more about the human culture of the region and the consequences of imperialism and conquest. It is a testament to Harvey's skill that his account of alliances and betrayals, deceptions and grisly executions, liberally interspersed with details of Bolívar's many love affairs, remains gripping and illuminates something of the leader's contradictory personality. 24 b&w illus. (June)
“Starred Review. This is a masterful biography, ideal for general readers.”
Kirkus Reviews

The great liberator Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) receives a colorful treatment by an admiring British journalist.

Harvey (The Fall of Apartheid: The Inside Story from Smuts to Mbeki, 2002, etc.) sees in Bolívar's evolution the epitome of the Romantic hero. He was a spoiled son of Venezuela who seized sobering ideas from his enlightened tutor and from far-flung travels to Europe, and, after a terrible clash with adversity, he joined the rebel movement against the Spanish oppressors of his homeland. Harvey examines Bolívar's later greatness from his early revolutionary seeds. He was born to an independent-minded family from northern Spain that broke off from the Castilian state in the late 16th century to migrate, and Bolívar grew up within a charmed life in Caracas and demonstrated early on an ungovernable spirit. His formative experiences included being tutored by the unorthodox Simón Rodríguez, steeped in Rousseau'sEmile, his ill-fated young marriage (his bride died after less than a year) and witnessing the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Bolívar had worshipped before he proved to be a "hypocritical tyrant." Inculcated in the Spanish criollo system of feudalism, Bolívar had also soured on the oppressive Spanish reign that had denied his family a certificate of pure blood; he grew to abhor what he witnessed as the exploitation of Latin American resources and people "to satisfy the insatiable greed of Spain." Harvey ably weaves the context around Bolívar's daredevil vision to challenge the powerful Spanish empire built by central authority, the church and military. Later in life, Bolívar displayed the ruthlessness, daring and literary eloquence that would ultimately liberate millions of enslaved, illiterate South Americans and inspire a continent—as well as create a troubling legacy of authoritarianism that would wreak bloody havoc after him.

An energetic, satisfyingly florid narrative that captures the passion and frenzy in this extraordinary life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616083168
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/1/2011
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Harvey has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, assistant editor of the Economist, and a member of British Parliament. He is the author of many books, including The War of Wars; The Undefeated: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Greater Japan; Portugal: Birth of a Democracy; Liberators; Global Disorder: America and the Threat of World Conflict; Cochrane; and Bolivar.
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Table of Contents

Maps ix

Acknowledgements and a Note on Sources 1

Prologue 3

Introduction 7

Part 1 The Liberation of New Granada (Modern Venezuela, Colombia and Panama)


1 Young Bolívar 15

2 Madrid 21

3 The Longest Empire 35

4 Tremors 51

5 Miranda: Poseur, Seducer, Genius 65

6 Revolutionary General 83

7 The 'Invasion' of Venezuela 97

8 i Independencia! 111

9 The Avenger 123

10 Up River, Across Mountains 137

11 Into Venezuela 147

12 Hell's Legionnaires 161

13 Down and Out in Jamaica 183

14 The Orinoco 199

15 Páez 217

16 The Crossing of the Andes 239

17 Victory at Carabobo 255

Part 2 The Liberation of Peru (Modern Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia)

18 Towards the Silver Mountain 271

19 Showdown with San Martín 279

20 Trapped in Lima 293

21 Lances in the Mountains 307

Part 3 Downfall

22 The Idealist 331

23 The Division of Colombia 347

24 Showdown with Santander 355

25 Ploughing the Sea 375

Bibliography 391

Index 397

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 14, 2011

    The Great Liberator

    My parents are from Colombia, South America and the name Simon Bolívar was commonly mentioned not only within my own home but when I visited there. I did not really know much about the Liberator and that is why I was drawn to this book.
    Robert Harvey, a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and author of other biographies on South Americans has taken this mythic figure and brought his story alive in Simon Bolívar: The Liberator of Latin America: The War Against the Spanish Empire.
    The book focuses on three phases of Simon Bolívar's life. According the author, they were "the first being that of the ruthless and frenzied aristocratic fighter defending his own class interest, the second his conversion to ensuring the well being of all classes, and to more humanitarian and subtle military tactics." The third phase was his "equally romantics, perhaps inevitable, downfall."
    The book takes the reader back to his youth and how this basically orphan young man had the vision to break ties from Spain. The portrait is delves into his loves, his friendships, and enemies.
    Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela has a spiritual connection to this iconic figure, now we are able to understand the division between the mythic figure and the flesh and blood man.
    In the end Bolívar declared that "Three great killers of humanity have been Jesus Christ, Don Quixote and myself", the author clarifies, "killers because they had been idealist and misled people". Now in Simon Bolívar: The Liberator of Latin America: The War Against the Spanish Empire you can be the judge of the rightful role of this visionary.
    Ironically part of the limitations that the South America has not progressed as much as the United States in the North can be attributed to problems that even Simon Bolívar was unable to solve.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2013

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