Latin American History
1 November 2011
Citizens in Arms: The Army, the Militias and the National Guards and the Creation of the Peruvian State (1821-1861)
Natalia Sobrevilla (University of Kent)

Militray parade in the Independent district, Lima, Peru (1975)

To what degree was there a military institution in nineteenth century Peru? How did militias eventually form an army? What role did armed citizens play in this process? These are all questions asked by Natalia Sobrevilla concerning the origins of the military in Peru. Sobrevilla wants to look beyond the traditional story focused on the Generals and understand the ordinary recruits and citizens in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of state formation in nineteenth century Peru. This is no easy task as Sobrevilla discusses the sources available to her, however it is possible to pick out patronage systems within the army and reconstruct a picture from various official documents. Sobrevilla tells a story of the armed citizens’ relationship to the National Guard, of veterans and pensions, of debates surrounding nationality, and of citizen’s obligations and duty to the state. Sobrevilla concludes that the military organisation was not ‘modern’ as we would understand it today, but it did bring with it rank and position within society and a uniform in which individuals were able to gain a sense of belonging.

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