Smoldering Ashes

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Smoldering AshesIn Smoldering Ashes Charles F. Walker interprets the end of Spanish domination in Peru and that country’s shaky transition to an autonomous republican state. Placing the indigenous population at the center of his analysis, Walker shows how the Indian peasants played a crucial and previously unacknowledged role in the battle against colonialism and in the political clashes of the early republican period. With its focus on Cuzco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, Smoldering Ashes highlights the promises and frustrations of a critical period whose long shadow remains cast on modern Peru.

Peru’s Indian majority and non-Indian elite were both opposed to Spanish rule, and both groups participated in uprisings during the late colonial period. But, at the same time, seething tensions between the two groups were evident, and non-Indians feared a mass uprising. As Walker shows, this internal conflict shaped the many struggles to come, including the Tupac Amaru uprising and other Indian-based rebellions, the long War of Independence, the caudillo civil wars, and the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. Smoldering Ashes not only reinterprets these conflicts but also examines the debates that took place—in the courts, in the press, in taverns, and even during public festivities—over the place of Indians in the republic. In clear and elegant prose, Walker explores why the fate of the indigenous population, despite its participation in decades of anticolonial battles, was little improved by republican rule, as Indians were denied citizenship in the new nation—an unhappy legacy with which Peru still grapples.

Informed by the notion of political culture and grounded in Walker’s archival research and knowledge of Peruvian and Latin American history, Smoldering Ashes will be essential reading for experts in Andean history, as well as scholars and students in the fields of nationalism, peasant and Native American studies, colonialism and postcolonialism, and state formation.


“In a remarkable piece of research—the minute examination of thousands of criminal trials—Walker shows the Indians using the law, indeed ‘flooding the courts,’ to defend their social and agrarian interest, protect the office of cacique against outsiders, and question abuse from above. He deftly demonstrates the operation of a legal system that simultaneously supported the elites and provided a platform for challenging them. . . . Walker concludes that Peru was left with an unresolved relationship between the State and the Indians, who paid tribute and received some political authority and special rights as landholders, but otherwise remained in a state of permanent stand-off with the political elite.”Times Literary Supplement

“Walker delineates the significance of regional politics in the transformation of Peru during the closing years of Spanish rule and the initial decades following independence. . . . Extensive annotations and documentation as well as a comprehensive bibliography add to the value of this important contribution to 19th-century Latin American historiography.”—J. A. Gagliano, Choice

“This well written and challenging study by Charles F. Walker is the latest and possibly the best-to-date of an emerging Latin American historiography constructed upon the foundations of subaltern studies, peasant studies, and imagined nation-states. . . . Walker has written a masterful work that should find its place among the classics of the new analysis.”—Roger P. Davis, H-Net Reviews

Smoldering Ashes is a welcome and timely correction. . . . The book is a valuable addition to the growing literature on early republican Peru. It offers a reinterpretation of early republican caudillismo that combines local-level with national-level analysis. In addition, by historicising the role of Cuzco’s indigeneous population in the transition from the colony to the republic, this book makes a major contribution to attempts to correct interpretations that place Indians at the periphery of Peruvian political history. This is an important book that deserves a wide readership.”—Paulo Drinot, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“By viewing independence as cultural conflict in the Andes, Walker has dramatically questioned the predominant structualist and developmentalist approaches to Peru’s national identity. Future work on the country’s mysterious nineteenth-century politics will have to contend with his arguments, making this book a highly valuable contribution to the historiography of early Republican Peru and Latin America.”—Vincent Peloso,American Historical Review

“Walker has written a detailed and important book that illustrates a critical period in Peruvian history, and his discussions of the Tupac Amaru rebellion and caudillismo are very strong. . . . [A]n important contribution to the literature.”—Robert H. Jackson,Journal of Social History

“One of the . . . major contributions to the book is to bring indigenous peoples more fully into the discussions of politics and the state than is often the case with works that deal with these subjects in this period. . . . For students of politics, power relations, state formation, regionalism, class, and the role of subalterns, to mention but a few topics, Smoldering Ashes has much to offer.”—Ward Stavig, Plantation Society

“The book’s most important contribution is that it looks at the dying years of the Spanish empire and the early years of the Peruvian republic from the vantage point of Cuzco’s Indians. . . . [A] valuable contribution . . . to Latin American historiography.”—Orazio A. Ciccarelli, Red River Valley Historical Journal

“[An] impressive history that examines a much-documented event from a new interpretive perspective. . . . [A]n enlightening and well-written source of reference.”—British Bulletin of Publications

“Walker’s book presents a new way of addressing nation-state building and identity in Peru.”—Christine Hunefeldt, Latin American Studies

“This is an exceptionally well-written account, and a pleasure to read. Walker has an eye for the telling quote, an uncommon ability to distill complex debates cogently, and a fluid literary prose. He is well versed in the relevant theoretical and comparative literature, but the book is mercifully free of jargon. Walker is the first historian to systematically use the region’s early republican newspapers as a source, and does so with profit; he deploys other printed materials tellingly. . . . Overall this is a fine piece of historical writing that is a significant addition to the literature on the transition era and the nature of the early colonial state. It deserves to be widely discussed, and will certainly be read with pleasure.”—David Cahill, Hispanic American Historical Review

“This is a very fine book. . . . [T]he intelligence and insight that [Walker] brings to his analysis lift this book into an entirely different category of reading experience. His text is so full of small detail and sub-arguments that are a pleasure to read. . . . Most fascinating of all, he provides splendid information on the use of the Inca empire as a counter-hegemonic symbol throughout the entire picture. From the Tüpac Amaru rebellion to the rise of Gamarra, the Incas were invoked to justify a wide variety of political and social projects. Walker thus develops Alberto Flores Galindo’s ideas of Inca utopianism in his exemplary case study. . . . [R]eaders interested in Spanish America, subaltern studies, and the development of nationalism will find this volume equally appealing.”—Rebecca Earle, History: Journal of the Historical Association

“[A]n admirable attempt to bridge the colonial/national divide, and readers will learn much from its wide scope and deft prose.”—Mark Thurner, International Historical Review

“[A] very fine book. . . . [T]he intelligence and insight that [Walker] brings to his analysis lift this book into an entirely different category of reading experience. His text is full of small detail and sub-arguments that are a pleasure to read. . . . [R]eaders interested in Spanish America, subaltern studies, and the development of nationalism will find this volume equally appealing.”—Rebecca Earle, History