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War and Nation: identity and the process of state-building in South America (1800-1840)

1814 Fernando VII Returns to Power

In 1813 Napoleon agreed to recognise Fernando VII de Borbón as King of Spain again. He had kept him imprisoned in France since his abdication in 1808. Fernando VII therefore returned to Spain in 1814 having spent five years held captive in France.

Fernando VII de Borbón by Francisco Goya

His first actions were to undo the liberal reforms of governance that had been implemented in his absence. He annulled the Cádiz constitution, for example, dissolved the Cortes and suppressed the free press. He sought to abolish constitutionalism and re-establish the absolute monarchial system he had left in 1808.

Things had moved on in his absence and juntas had formed both in Spain and the Americas. The wars of independence had broken out in the Americas. During this period diplomacy between the different juntas in South America and indeed with foreign countries like Britain and the United States was as important for the process of independence as the battles were. In the podcast above Dr Daniel Gutierrez speaks about the importance of diplomacy in the independence period.

While the diplomatic efforts of the era had an important role to play in the struggle for independence, 1815 would see a new wave of military confrontation as Fernanco VII sent Royalist troops to regain control of the Americas. This period is often referred to as the restoration or the re-conquest. In the podcast below, and in the banner of this page, Natalia Sobrevilla Perea reflects on these different terms and considers the nuances of meaning in the two terms. Sobrevilla Perea reflects, for example, on whether this period should be considered in terms of a restoration of Spanish rule, or whether it should be considered a re-conquest of territories.

Despite the rapid defeat of revolutionary opposition in Nueva Granada, the restoration of monarchical rule did not last long. The regime collapsed again three years later. Daniel Gutiérrez Ardila has written extensively on this topic. In his book La restauración en la nueva granada (1815-1819) Gutiérrez Ardila explores a number of key questions surrounding the short restoration of monarchical rule in this period. He looks at how such an outcome was achieved. Often this period is narrated as a period in which ruthless royalists overthrew weak criollos, but Gutiérrez Ardila proposes a different reading of the era. He looks at the way the revolutionaries created strategies for survival and peace in this turbulent era.

Further Reading

Gutiérrez Ardila, Daniel. La restauración en la nueva granada (1815-1819) Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia and the Museo Nacional de Colombia, 2017.