Who Should Rule?
Men of Arms, the Republic of Letters, and the Fall of the Spanish Empire
Oxford University Press 2017
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Latin American StudiesNew Books in Military HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network December 7, 2017 Alvaro Caso Bello
Monica Ricketts’ new book Who Should Rule? Men of Arms, the Republic of Letters, and the Fall of the Spanish Empire (Oxford University Press, 2017) presents readers with the connected histories of military cadres and intellectuals in Peru and Spain c. 1770-1830. The book advances the argument that a Crown-sponsored change in the idea of “merit” in the Spanish Empire made possible the rise to power of new military cadres and the renewal of the Hispanic republic of letters. Ricketts argues that these changes had important consequences as these two cohorts of individuals battled over who had the merits to rule the Empire during the captivity of Spanish king Ferdinand VII under Napoleon, and after independence in Peru. Such shift in the conception of merit accounted for the rise of men like Agustin Gamarra and Andres de Santa Cruz, two of the most prominent leaders of independent Peru, to high military rank in the Spanish imperial armies first, and in the revolutionary ones later. The quest for an intellectual renewal in Spain and Spanish America also led to a reinvigoration of a Spanish Atlantic republic of letters. There too new men rose to prominence based on their literary and intellectual achievements. Part of these Spanish Atlantic intellectuals would battle with the men of the military concerning whom had the most “merits” to govern in Spain and Spanish America. Ricketts’ book stimulates the reader to ask questions regarding the origins of “meritocratic” thinking in Spain and Latin America, as well as how coherent military bodies came into public life.