Within half a century, three European empires fell to American movements for independence. In this innovative and sophisticated account of comparative history, Lester D. Langley considers the revolutions in the American colonies, Saint Domingue (later Haiti), and the "Iberoamerican" independence movements in South America. He compares class leadership, racial factors, and the relative violence of each movement. His study alters the typical framework for analyzing American independence as he considers revolution from a dynamic or systemic perspective. Eschewing questions of causation such as "Why did the revolutions occur?" or "What did they achieve?" he explores instead the importance of place and location as well as what the revolts brought in terms of industrialization, militarization, and material progress. Professor Langley's arguments are based in an intriguing understanding of chaos theory, which he applies to the interpretation of historical experience in order to draw out the roles of probability and randomness as constraints on and conditions for the various revolutionary movements.
From Publishers Weekly
Every serious scholar of United States or Latin American history should own this book. Although it's not a light read, it is an intriguing study and is a vital complement to bibliography of this field. Revolutionary leaders of this era were profoundly influenced by the successes of those that went before. Langley, a professor of history at the University of Georgia and coauthor (with Thomas Schoonover) of The Banana Men, proposes "a portrait of hemispheric political culture in an epoch spanning three wars in the Americas, each of which left a powerful legacy for the new states that took form in their aftermath. In a half-century, three European empires fell to independence movements." This comparative history of the revolutionary age in the Americas emphasizes the social tensions and political upheavals that transformed British North America into the United States, French Saint Domingue into Haiti and Spanish America into South America and Mexico. The author is mindful, however, of the aftermath of violence and the death of empires, and he closely examines the social and political climate of the postrevolutionary periods. But the book is a supplement, not a substitute. While it contains voluminous notes (nearly 70 pages), maps and an index, prior knowledge of the region's history is required for full enjoyment. Langley's study is a valuable matrix of events that can help us better understand the relationships in our hemisphere then and now. Illustrated.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.