Francisco de Miranda (March 28, 1750, Caracas, Venezuela—July 14, 1816, La Carraca, Spain) was a Spanish American revolutionary who after a career in the Spanish Army from 1783 devoted his life to the cause of Spanish American independence. The various designs of Miranda in the 1780s–1800s were founded upon the idea of a military liberation expedition to Spanish America led by him and organized with the support of a power (Great Britain, United States, France) in conflict with Spain that would then foment existing discontent and lead to a wide-scale revolt and independence. Though these plans failed, as did his attempt to organize an expedition from New York without the support of any power (1805–1807), in 1810 the revolution in Spanish America started without his participation as a consequence of the Napoleonic invasion of Spain. Miranda was called to Caracas and eventually led the short-lived First Venezuelan Republic in 1812. After its defeat he spent the last years of his life in Spanish jails. Miranda’s failure influenced the South American revolutionaries who adopted the tactics of unconditional warfare against the Spanish troops from 1813. A shrewd and sophisticated expert in world affairs and political intrigues and an acclaimed military commander, Miranda was persistently trying to use the conflicts between great powers to achieve his goal though he knew that these powers’ leaders were eager to use him as a trump card against the Spanish Empire in their geopolitical games. His contacts ranged from US Founding Fathers, British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and Viscount Melville to the Prussian king Friedrich II and the Russian empress Catherine II. He was a respected peer in the high society of the European “republic of letters” in the Age of Enlightenment. In the United States his friends belonged to the Federalist Party, which represents an interesting phenomenon since Federalists are usually viewed as being generally skeptical toward foreign revolutions. In Spanish America Miranda’s ideas received no support until 1810–1812, as his failed expedition clearly shows—this is an excellent example of the interplay between “evental history” (histoire évenémentielle) and the longue durée, demonstrating how fast and unpredictable radical historical change may be. In spite of this long political solitude, Miranda entered the Spanish American symbolic pantheon as the precursor of independence.
From 1800 to the present, US troops have intervened thousands of times in Latin America and have occupied its countries on dozens of occasions. Interventions were short-term and superficial, while occupations lasted longer and controlled local governments. The causes of these troop landings reflected the United States’ motivations as it expanded from a strong, large republic into first a continental and then an overseas empire at the expense of its smaller, weaker neighbors. Those motivations included colonial land hunger, cultural chauvinism, the exploitation of resources, the search for markets abroad, competition against other great powers, political reformism, global ideological struggle, and the perception that US domestic problems originated in Latin America. US troops undertook almost all these interventions and occupations, although private groups sometimes joined. The major periods were the expansion of the continental republic from 1811 to 1897, the war in Cuba and the apex of occupations (1898–1933), the Good Neighbor years (1934–1953), the Cold War (1954–1990), and the post-Cold War period (1991–2018 and ongoing). Scholars of these events have become increasingly critical and diverse, not only seeing them often as unnecessary brutal failures but also foregrounding extra-military aspects of these episodes, such as economics, race, and gender.
In New Spain, the 18th century was characterized by important political and administrative changes in imperial geopolicy that stemmed from the reforms introduced by Spain’s king, Charles III, which continued under the Bourbon monarchs. These so-called Bourbon Reforms sought to reduce the centralizing power of the viceroyalty’s governments, as well as that of the Royal Audiences in Spanish America. The British colonization of the Atlantic coast and the continued confrontation with Native Americans resulted in changes in New Spain’s territorial structure, especially the consolidating of the northern Provincias Internas (Internal Provinces). The project of structuring a political territory in the north originally emerged in 1751 with the aim of organizing the space into a General Command. The process began in 1776 with the appointment of José de Gálvez as the minister of the Indies. The first commanding general, Teodoro de Croix (1730–1792), who was given authorization to act independently of the viceroyalty, established the command by taking into his jurisdiction the provinces of Sonora, Sinaloa, the Californias, Nueva Vizcaya, New Mexico, Coahuila, and Tejas and, later, the New Kingdom of León and New Santander. In 1787, the Spanish government decided to modify the jurisdictions by creating provincial blocks: the Eastern Internal Provinces and the Western Internal Provinces. The jurisdiction that would experience a number of difficult changes that arose principally from the military control that began during the first years of colonization and lasted until the disappearance of viceregal power. The rest of the Spanish Empire’s territory, meanwhile, was organized into administrations ruled by a general governor or mayor who exercised powers of law, war, the treasury, public works, and the development of local economic efforts.