Book Review: A Great Fear: Luís de Onís and the Shadow War against Napoleon in Spanish America, 1808-1812


by Timothy Hawkins

Tuscaloosa: University Alabama Press, 2019. Pp. xviii, 240. Illus., maps, gloss, append., notes, biblio., index. $49.95. ISBN: 0817320040

Napoleon’s Latin American Campaign

Prof. Hawkins (Indiana State) offers the first ever treatment of Napoleon’s efforts, both real and perceived, to subvert Spanish rule in the Americas following his invasion of the motherland and during the Peninsular War.

The principal character in this work is not Bonaparte, but Luís de Onís (1762-1827), the Spanish minister to the United States for much of the period. Onís was legitimately wary of American and particularly French efforts to leverage Spain’s weakness in order to acquire some of her colonies, and sought ways to frustrate them..

Hawkins offers some convincing reasons that suggest French efforts to foster unrest in Spain’s colonies worked against the embryonic independence movements in several of them, out of fear of French domination, with it’s revolutionary radicalism and anti-clericalism.

A volume in the University of Alabama series “Atlantic Crossings”, A Great Fear takes an excellent look at Napoleon’s efforts to subvert Spanish rule in the Americas, and a can be case made that Hawkins’s argument is strengthened by the fact that the independence movements across the region became more influential, and ultimately successful, after the fall of the Napoleonic regime.


Note: A Greater Fear is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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