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Francisco Solano López and the Ruination of Paraguay

Honor and Egocentrism

James Schofield Saeger

The first serious biography of Francisco Solano López in English for decades, this richly researched book tells the dramatic story of Paraguay's most notorious ruler. Despite the heroic stature he gained after his death, López was a monumentally flawed leader who made the disastrous decisions in 1864 and 1865 to invade Paraguay's powerful neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, initiating the most devastating interstate conflict in South American history. Drawing on a trove of primary sources, James Schofield Saeger offers a critical analysis of López's personality and often-irrational persecution of enemies, adherents, and siblings. He traces López's preparation for high public office, work habits, control of his nation and army, propaganda, and execution. Concluding with an examination of López's posthumous rehabilitation, Saeger shows how the tyrant who ruined his nation became its most highly honored hero, crowning a campaign by revisionist publicists from 1870–1936, and a useful symbol for later authoritarians. Still largely unchallenged in Paraguay today, this glorification of a martial president is definitively put to rest in Saeger's meticulous study. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 252Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/8
978-0-7425-3754-5 • Hardback • July 2007 • $99.00 • (£65.00)
978-0-7425-3755-2 • Paperback • July 2007 • $44.00 • (£29.95)
978-0-7425-8056-5 • eBook • July 2007 • $41.00 • (£27.95)
James Schofield Saeger is professor of history at Lehigh University.
Chapter 1: Los López, Father and Son, Family and Nation
Chapter 2: Francisco Visits Europe and New Departures
Chapter 3: López's War: Diplomacy, Combat, and Honor
Chapter 4: López Invaded
Chapter 5: The Final Agonies
Chapter 6: The López Legacy
Saeger's text is an important contribution to a greater understanding of the creation of Paraguayan nationalism in the twentieth century. His work sheds light on one of the darkest periods in Paraguayan history while resurrecting the mindset of one of its 'heroes.' Ultimately, Saeger's work will stimulate more work on the War of the Triple Alliance and the men who led all four nations to the bloody battlefield.
The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History

This concise, well-written biography accurately reflects the author's assessment of the man who . . . has been officially exalted by Paraguayans as the nation's most admired national hero. . . . Francisco Solano López and the Ruination of Paraguay is a masterful portrait of a nation, an extraordinary dictator, and the evolution of a hero cult that can be debated and read with pleasure by scholars and undergraduates alike.
The Latin Americanist

Jim Saeger has penetrated the dark heart of one of Latin America's most ruinous caudillos, Solano López, with on-site research in Paraguay and simpatico insights. This is auténtico political history, written with grace and from years of study.
Allan R. Millett, Eisenhower Center for American Studies and The Ohio State University

Saeger has provided us with a critical biography of Francisco Solano López that places the man in his times, reveals his character defects, and clarifies how the myth of the nationalistic hero emerged.
Vera Blinn Reber, Shippensburg University

Was Francisco Solano López a madman or a national hero? James Saeger answers this question forthrightly, undermining the conventional view and reviving a rational yet novel judgment of the man who dragged his Paraguayan countrymen through a misbegotten war against their far larger and more powerfully endowed neighbors with sad consequences for a population that did not deserve such punishment. Saeger has crafted a thoughtful, solidly documented biography of a deranged figure whose bizarre life is a classic example of the surreal Latin American dictator of literary notoriety. He deploys the sources carefully and fairly and provides his audience, undergraduates and general readers alike, with a compelling story of power gone awry in the pivotal middle decades of nineteenth-century Latin America. An uncompromising new assessment of a long-standing, self-deluding national mythology, this book surpasses biography. It will provoke many a classroom debate on any number of themes. Among them will be the timeless question of the dangers of a surrender of public power to irresponsible central authority and the dire national consequences of political self-delusion.
Vincent C. Peloso, Howard University

At last, an informative and well-written biography of Francisco Solano López. Saeger gives us a finely drawn picture of this national 'hero' in the context of his time and place. Bravo!
Susan M. Socolow, Emory University