The Vanguard of the Atlantic World

Creating Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in Nineteenth-Century Latin America

The Vanguard of the Atlantic World

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 10 illustrations Published: October 2014

History > Latin American History, World History, Latin American Studies

In the nineteenth century, Latin America was home to the majority of the world's democratic republics. Many historians have dismissed these political experiments as corrupt pantomimes of governments of Western Europe and the United States. Challenging that perspective, James E. Sanders contends that Latin America in this period was a site of genuine political innovation and popular debate reflecting Latin Americans' visions of modernity. Drawing on archival sources in Mexico, Colombia, and Uruguay, Sanders traces the circulation of political discourse and democratic practice among urban elites, rural peasants, European immigrants, slaves, and freed blacks to show how and why ideas of liberty, democracy, and universalism gained widespread purchase across the region, mobilizing political consciousness and solidarity among diverse constituencies. In doing so, Sanders reframes the locus and meaning of political and cultural modernity.


“The book focuses mainly on the midcentury period, roughly 1840-80, and covers important encounters between transatlantic republicans in the process of nation building...An important book.” — K. L. Racine, Choice

"While The Vanguard of the Atlantic World speaks most directly to scholars of intellectual and political history, students interested in racial relations would benefit greatly from this book. Throughout, Sanders writes in a lucid and engaging style. Without a doubt, Sanders successfully demonstrates the importance of Latin American political thought for the nineteenth century and beyond." — Rachael L. Pasierowska, History

"[T]he breakthrough of this book is to illuminate how much struggle there was over the soul of liberalism in Latin America."  — Jeremy Adelman, American Historical Review

"The Vanguard of the Atlantic World’s most important contribution is its passionate inclusion of nineteenth-century Latin America in the discussion about democracy and nationhood." — Florencia E. Mallon, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Insightful, profusely documented, creatively organized, and clearly written,... The Vanguard of the Atlantic World shall become indispensable to those interested in the history of political culture, democracy, and republicanism not only in Latin America but across the globe." — Victor M. Uribe-Uran, Ethnohistory

"Sanders' work will prove useful not only to those interested in deepening their understanding of the development of political ideas in the aftermath of Independence. By keeping a constant focus, particularly in the analytical chapters, on competing discourses, we are also able to read a history of the visions of modernity that eventually eclipsed the American republican ones." — Michelle F. Carmody, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"[T]his is an enormously thought-provoking book, one that should spark productive debate and dialogue, within Latin Americanist circles and beyond." — Karen D. Caplan, The Americas

"The book calls on us to rethink in particular the role of ordinary men of all racial groups in the rise and triumph of liberalism in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Sanders has put his finger on the fact that there was something exceptional about the transatlantic and North-South geopolitical conditions at that particular historical moment that allowed such a radical, egalitarian vision of modernity to flourish in (at least) parts of Spanish America." — James A. Wood, EIAL

"The Vanguard of the Atlantic World is a welcome addition to a growing body of literature that has revised the history of democracy in Latin America, identifying institutions and practices that developed in the region earlier than in Europe and the United States." — Eduardo Posada-Carbó, Canadian Journal of History

“Sanders’s argument goes beyond the description of a Latin American popular discourse. He wants to rewrite an important chapter of modern history.” — Ulrich Mücke, Latin American Research Review

"Ambitious and important. . . . James E. Sanders must be praised for his perseverance in stubbornly maintaining his focus on popular engagement with the egalitarian, democratic, and republican ideas that pervaded the nineteenth-century Atlantic world." — Guy Thomson, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Where historians of Latin America have tended to dismiss or overlook the period between the 1840s and the 1870s, James E. Sanders shows that during these years, the continent was a place of remarkable political innovation. Striking at the heart of Eurocentrism, he finds compelling evidence of how supposedly universal ideals, such as liberty, were generated not just in Europe but precisely in places that Eurocentrists have long written off as backwaters of history, places such as Colombia, Haiti, and Mexico."
— Aims McGuinness, author of Path of Empire: Panama and the California Gold Rush

"The Vanguard of the Atlantic World is a fundamental contribution not only to our understanding of nineteenth-century Latin America, but also to the broader scholarly debate about the origins of modern democratic republicanism. James E. Sanders argues that in the nineteenth century Spanish America was the most democratic region of the world. In so doing, he rejects claims that Latin America has always stood on the margins of democratic culture and modernity, and he speaks directly to current debates about the relationship between capitalism, modernity, and democracy." — Rebecca Earle, author of The Return of the Native: Indians and Myth-making in Spanish America, 1810–1930


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

James E. Sanders is Professor of History at Utah State University. He is the author of Contentious Republicans: Popular Politics, Race, and Class in Nineteenth-Century Colombia, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix
Prologue 1
Introduction. American Republican Modernity 5
1. Garibaldi, the Garibaldinos, and the Guerra Grande 24
2. "A Pueblo Unfit to Live among Civilized Nations": Conceptions of Modernity after Independence 39
3. The San Patricio Battalion 64
4. Eagles of American Democracy: The Flowering of American Republican Modernity 81
5. Francisco Bilbao and the Atlantic Imagination 136
6. David Peña and Black Liberalism 161
7. The Collapse of American Republican Modernity 176
Conclusion. A "Gift That the New World Has Sent Us" 225
Notes 239
Bibliography 297
Index 331
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5780-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5764-3
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