For generations, 19th century Latin American history has been portrayed as a period of anarchic turmoil, wasted energy, and pointless division. It was the age of caudillos and of political breakup. But recent evidence paints a very different picture. More and more historians see the period from 1821 (when the wars of independence ended) to 1860s as an era of experimentation and innovation, of building new institutions to replace the old. This essay reprises some of the primary lines of investigation. It explores the ways in which Latin Americans built a hybrid model of constitutionalism, adapted from elements circulating around the Atlantic world. It explores how people charted new meanings of citizenship by applying new legal tools and practices of public organization in the civic sphere. It examines the experiments in political organizing and vertical alliances. Finally, it suggests that older intellectual and ideological coordinates of secular vs religious, liberal vs conservative, fail to capture the very strong emphasis on pragmatic republican strains in 19th century statebuilders.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes