Armies without Nations

Armies without Nations : Public Violence and State Formation in Central America, 1821-1960

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Public violence, a persistent feature of Latin American life since the collapse of Iberian rule in the 1820s, has been especially prominent in Central America. Robert H. Holden shows how public violence shaped the states that have governed Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Linking public violence and patrimonial political cultures, he shows how the early states improvised their authority by bargaining with armed bands or montoneras. Improvisation continued into the twentieth century as the bands were gradually superseded by semi-autonomous national armies, and as new agents of public violence emerged in the form of armed insurgencies and death squads. World War II, Holden argues, set into motion the globalization of public violence. Its most dramatic manifestation in Central America was the surge in U.S. military and police collaboration with the governments of the region, beginning with the Lend-Lease program of the 1940s and continuing through the Cold War. Although the scope of public violence had already been established by the people of the Central American countries, globalization intensified the violence and inhibited attempts to shrink its scope. Drawing on archival research in all five countries as well as in the United States, Holden elaborates the connections among the national, regional, and international dimensions of public violence. Armies Without Nations crosses the borders of Central American, Latin American, and North American history, providing a model for the study of global history and politics. Armies without Nations was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for more

Product details

  • Paperback | 352 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.1 x 22.9mm | 521.64g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 14 illus.
  • 0195310209
  • 9780195310207
  • 2,019,239

Review quote

Contrary to much of the scholarly literature of the 1980s, which sought causes for Central American violence in U.S. policy, and contrary also to the official U.S. government view at the time, which blamed Soviet or Cuban meddling, Holden argues that the prevalence of public violence in the region is a product of its own history and not of intervention by external actors....Scholars interested in militarism and violence in public life in Latin America, and especially in Central America, will want to read and discuss this book. * American Historical Review * For the first time Central America's awesome capacity for fratricidal violence is accorded the status it deserves: the riddle to be solved and not some deviant version of an otherwise progressive history of development. This story began long before what Holden calls the post-World War II era of globalized public violence, and FDR's Good Neighborly military advisors share in the credit so proudly claimed by Reagan-era zealots from North and Poindexter to Abrams and Negroponte."-Lowell Gudmundson, co-author of Central America, 1821-1871 Based on extensive archival research in the United States and Central America, Robert Holden's Armies without Nations explores the history of state formation, public violence, and the role of United States' policy in Central America before the Cuban Revolution. Original theoretical contributions on the sources and agents of violence and careful case studies of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica from independence to 1961 make this book an important contribution to our understanding of the political and social history of Central America. * Brian Loveman, Fred J. Hansen Chair for Peace Studies and Professor of Political Science, San Diego State University * Theoretically informed and heavily documented with archival sources from both the United States and Central America, Holden's work is a major contribution to our understanding of the military and political history of the twentieth-century Central America. * American Historical Review * I know of no other work that explains so well the intimate relationship of the United States military establishment to the development of Central American military and police states in the mid-twentieth century. In its attention to all five of the Central American states, it also offers a valuable comparative analysis of public violence and policy in this region. * Ralph Lee Woodward, author of Central America: A Nation Divided * Armies without Nations builds an integrated, regional history and provides a crucial conceptual framework through which to understand how individuals and groups within these particular and emerging nations chose to employ similar tools and methods of social control to assure political power. * Journal of Latin American Studies * Holden's clear prose and steady argumentation mean that all reading levels will find reward in some portion of the book. * History *show more

About Robert H. Holden

Robert H. Holden is an Associate Professor of History at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Mexico and the Survey of the Public Lands: The Management of Modernization, 1876-1911 and the co-editor of Latin America and the United States: A Documentary History (OUP, 2000).show more

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