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"Border Wars in South America during the 19th Century" Topic


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221 hits since 25 Jul 2017
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse25 Jul 2017 3:15 p.m. PST

"While Europeans basked in the glory of their so-called century of peace between the end of the Napoleonic wars (1815) and the onset of World War I (1914), Latin Americans knew no such luxury. Conflict became a way of life for Latin Americans attempting to construct nation-states. Liberals and Conservatives dueled with one another for political power, while caudillos (military strongmen) added their unique twisted logic to the political process. Historians have spilled considerable ink detailing these internal conflicts that complicated Latin America's struggle for effective state formation in the early national period but have paid much less attention to the external wars over disputed boundaries that involved every South American nation during the 19th century. As historian Robert Burr described it: boundary conflicts were the "congenital international disease of Spain's former colonies."

At the time of independence, the Spanish South American nations agreed that the legal principle of uti possidetus de jure de 1810 (the established boundaries as of 1810) would govern the placement of the borders between the former colonies. Unfortunately, during the three centuries of the colonial experience, the Spanish Crown had been imprecise about marking the exact location of borders between its administrative units. The Bourbon kings in the 18th century readjusted their South American territories as the original viceroyalty of Peru was chopped into three parts: the viceroyalties of New Granada, Peru, and La Plata. Meanwhile, Portuguese slave hunters, gold prospectors, and missionaries expanded Brazil's frontier ever westward at the expense of the new Spanish American states. In those sparsely settled regions without proven material wealth, such as the Amazon basin and the Atacama Desert, precise boundaries seemed unnecessary even after independence.

Consequently, every South American nation engaged in at least one war against one or more of its neighbors during the 19th century in an attempt to maximize or stabilize its borders. Fueled by personal ambition and a desire to expand national territory as much as possible, caudillos, Liberal and Conservative presidents, as well as Brazilian emperors embarked upon imperialist adventures to adjust borders. Stronger nations consistently took advantage of their weaker neighbors. European countries, and especially Great Britain, inserted themselves into these disputes to protect commercial advantages. As a consequence, almost every decade saw an international border conflict that ultimately redrew boundaries. Only the dispute over the ownership of the Chaco region between Bolivia and Paraguay and the dispute about Ecuador's claim to Amazonian territory remained to be ironed out militarily during the 20th century…"
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