The Plebeian Republic

The Huanta Rebellion and the Making of the Peruvian State, 1820–1850

The Plebeian Republic

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 24 b&w photos, 7 illus. Published: April 2005

Author: Cecilia Méndez

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Andes, Sociology > Social Theory

Combining social and political history, The Plebeian Republic challenges well-established interpretations of state making, rural society, and caudillo politics during the early years of Peru’s republic. Cecilia Méndez presents the first in-depth reconstruction and analysis of the Huanta rebellion of 1825–28, an uprising of peasants, muleteers, landowners, and Spanish officers from the Huanta province in the department of Ayacucho against the new Peruvian republic. By situating the rebellion within the broader context of early-nineteenth-century Peruvian politics and tracing Huanta peasants’ transformation from monarchist rebels to liberal guerrillas, Méndez complicates understandings of what it meant to be a patriot, a citizen, a monarchist, a liberal, and a Peruvian during a foundational moment in the history of South American nation-states.

In addition to official sources such as trial dossiers, census records, tax rolls, wills, and notary and military records, Méndez uses a wide variety of previously unexplored sources produced by the mostly Quechua-speaking rebels. She reveals the Huanta rebellion as a complex interaction of social, linguistic, economic, and political forces. Rejecting ideas of the Andean rebels as passive and reactionary, she depicts the barely literate insurgents as having had a clear idea of national political struggles and contends that most local leaders of the uprising invoked the monarchy as a source of legitimacy but did not espouse it as a political system. She argues that despite their pronouncements of loyalty to the Spanish crown, the rebels’ behavior evinced a political vision that was different from both the colonial regime and the republic that followed it. Eventually, their political practices were subsumed into those of the republican state.


“[A]nuanced and sophisticated analysis of regional society within the context of large-scale and sometimes dramatic political changes. . . .” — Michiel Baud, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Méndez has produced an important, painstaking study of a fascinating early episode of Peruvian nation-state formation.” — Nils Jacobsen, American Historical Review

“The book under review is. . . . a model attempt at integration, since it not only accounts for the complex moment of transition—that of the making of the Peruvian state—but also raises again old questions and provides new answers.” — Raquel Gil Montero, Social History

“This book contributes substantially to our understanding of peasant political participation in state formation in Latin America . . . . The book definitively contributes to a new political history of the nineteenth century . . . . In fact, the formation of democratic tendencies in the 1930s, the particular character of the Peruvian military, the relevance of indigenista ideology, and the resistance of this region’s peasantry to Senderista violence can also be better understood after reading this book.” — Valeria Coronel, Hispanic American Historical Review

“This book contributes to our understanding of the process of state-building, by raising questions about the role of rural society in the formation of the national state. It offers an excellent view, particularly at the micro-historical level, of the changing relationship between state and society during a fascinating period of intense change in Peru.” — Iñigo García-Bryce, Canadian Journal of History

“This is a very rich book, both in ideas and in research. Mendez's reconceptualization of peasant politics for the nineteenth century will be influential. While many scholars will not agree with all of Mendez' conclusions, they are thought provoking and have wide-ranging implications for the rest of Latin America. This is an important book that adds considerably to the debate on the nature of the Latin American nation-state in the nineteenth century.” — Erick D. Langer, Journal of Social History

“This is an elegantly written work of mature scholarship; there is no better study of an Andean insurgency, and its manifold contributions significantly advance our understanding of Andean historiography in the late-colonial and subsequent republican decades, perhaps even to the present”
— David Cahill, Ethnohistory

"Provocative." — Peter Blanchard, History: Reviews of New Books

"The book, while contributing to Peruvian historiography, is driven by a forceful message about the complexity of early republican Spanish America and is an impressive effort to grapple with difficult questions. . . . Recommended." — J. Rosenthal, Choice

"This is an immense contribution not only to the study of nineteenth century Peruvian history, but to the scholarship of the region and must be read by every specialist wishing to gain further understanding of the rural Andes." — Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, Journal of Latin American Studies

The Plebeian Republic is a well-done and welcome contribution to ongoing debates on the meaning of political independence from Spain and the difficulties the new nation-states faced in creating new political, economic, and social spaces. Cecilia Méndez not only asks new questions but, in answering them, dismantles long-held assumptions about the nonparticipation of manifold social groups in the construction of politics.” — Christine Hünefeldt, author of Liberalism in the Bedroom: Quarreling Spouses in Nineteenth-Century Lima

The Plebeian Republic is an exciting and pathbreaking examination of state formation seen from a local perspective. Cecilia Méndez offers a convincing analysis of how people who are usually seen as ‘acted upon’ and reacting to political events develop and act on political strategies of their own. I found this a wonderful read.” — Karen Spalding, author of Huarochirí: An Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule


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Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Cecilia Méndez is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Los trabajadores guaneros del Perú, 1840–1879.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xiii

1. Introduction 1

2. The Republic's First Peasant Uprising 30

3. Royalism in the Crisis of Independence 52

4. Words and Images: The People and the King 75

5. The World of the Peasants: Landscapes and Networks 111

6. Government in Uchuraccay

7. The Plebeian Republic

Epilogue 234



Bibliography 315

Index 329
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2007 Howard Cline Memorial Prize, Conference on Latin American History

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3441-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3430-9
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