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Hispanic American Historical Review 82.1 (2002) 199-200



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Book Review

The Ten Cents War:
Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884


The Ten Cents War: Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884. By BRUCE W. FARCAU. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000. Notes. Bibliography. Index. 214 pp. Cloth, $62.50.

By his own admission, the author did not intend to write a detailed monograph on the War of the Pacific. On the contrary, he indicated that he would rely upon secondary sources to provide the reader a comprehensive, English-language study of this conflict in which Chile fought Peru and Bolivia from 1879 to 1884 . In one sense, Farcau has achieved his purpose: he did manage to compress four years of mayhem into less than 200 pages of text plus a bibliography. But the author's brevity, however commendable, cannot compensate for the book's lack of insight.

A quick glimpse at the footnotes indicates that the author has based his work essentially on four sources: for the Chilean side, Diego Barros Arana's and Gonzalo Bulnes' three volume study; Mariano Paz Soldán for Peru and Roberto Querejazu for Bolivia. Two of these four works, while not without merit, are quite dated: in Barros' case, well over a century has passed since his Historia de la Guerra del Pacífico appeared; Bulnes published his first volume in 1911 . The author could have profited by incorporating the materials found in the reports from foreign diplomats or military observers like Theodorus B. M. Mason. Farcau did not even refer to the various studies produced by Chile's Estado Mayor General del Ejercito de Chile or Peru's Comisión Permanente de Historia del Ejército del Perú.

Including these materials would have saved the author some embarrassment. Perhaps Farcau would not have been so harsh on José Francisco Vergara if he had learned that Baquedano's contemporary, and one of the few European-trained officers in Chile's army, General Marcos Maturana, also opposed a frontal attack on Peruvian positions at Chorrillos. So for that matter did Wilhelm Ekdahl, a Swedish officer who served as part of a European training mission to Chile and who wrote a three-volume history of the War of the Pacific. Clearly, it is not enough to append a bibliography to a monograph; the author should have incorporated this material.

Farcau could have used the services of someone who had a passing familiarity with the subject matter. Had he had availed himself of such assistance he might not have confused the delivery dates for Chile's ironclads; he would not have referred to the Treaty of Anacin when he meant the Treaty of Ancón; he would not have called Chile's Araucanians, Araucans; he would not have claimed that Baldomero Lillo served as Minister of War and the Navy when he did not; he would not have called Altamirano a admiral when he was a general; he would not have observed that the Huascár is on display in Valparaíso when it is, in fact, in Talcahuano's harbor. Finally, he would not have asserted that Chile had a parliamentary form of government in the 1870 s or early 1880 s. Alone, these are not crucial failures, but taken in conjunction with the countless mistakes in spelling, bibliographical citations, [End Page 199] and some of the facts, they call into question Farcau's research and therefore his conclusions. Those who want a quick read about the War of the Pacific can perhaps profit from Farcau's study. They should be forewarned, however, that his volume has serious limitations.

 



William F. Sater
California State University, Long Beach

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1900
Print ISSN
0018-2168
Pages
pp. 199-200
Launched on MUSE
2002-02-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2004
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