Impious adventurers? : mercenaries, honour and patriotism in the Wars of Independence in Gran Colombia
This is a study of the British and Irish mercenaries who travelled to Venezuela, New Granada and Ecuador to fight in Simon Bolivar's armies against Spanish rule in the years 1810-1830. It revises conventional assumptions about foreign involvement in the Independence of Gran Colombia by situating the mercenaries within contemporary debates on the changing nature of honour, patriotism and military service. The thesis revisits the original sources of historians like Hasbrouck, Cuervo Maquez and Lambert, and uses new sources such as novels, rumours expressed in prisoners' testimonies, petitions, personal correspondence, criminal court proceedings, and personal diaries. It is based on archival research in Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. A database of 40% of the adventurers provides the statistical background (lacking in all previous studies) for the subsequent discussions. It contains information regarding name, national and regional origin, rank, age, military experience, marriage, literacy, and subsequent career or manner of death. The thesis demonstrates how this large influx of external actors was a catalyst for change in the conceptualisation of the Wars of Independence. Hispanic American ideas of race, nation, honour and patriotism had to be reassessed when fighting alongside these foreigners. Revising the conventional understanding of the mercenaries as brave British veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, the thesis demonstrates the lack of military experience of the majority of the foreign soldiers, and illustrates the way that they conceived of themselves as adventurers, seeking fortune and opportunity in a new and unknown world. It dissects the practicalities of adventuring, showing how race, class and gender shaped encounters with local people. As such, the thesis builds upon the developing historiography of the Independence of Hispanic America and upon new work on British imperial history, and shows how foreign involvement in the Wars was much more than just economic or diplomatic. Encounters with foreigners, at a crucial moment in the formation of nascent collective identities, contributed to the evolution of a unique postcolonial society, in which conceptions of honour, service, patriotism and citizenship were substantially altered.