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Bringing War Back In: Victory, Defeat, and the State in Nineteenth-Century Latin America

Bringing War Back In (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press) revisits the connection between war and state building offering an account that fits a hard case for the theory so far: Latin America. In contrast to contemporary scholars of bellicist theory who focus on how wars led to extraction-coercion and killed weak states, I argue that classic scholars like Max Weber and Otto Hintze emphasised the unpredictability of war outcomes and focused on their lingering effects in a post-war phase. Amidst the fog of war all contenders mobilise, but it is the fortuitous outcome of war that will ultimately determine the survival of otherwise contingent wartime institutions. While victorious states will consolidate their wartime coalitions and see the state building project legitimised, those actors will be challenged in defeated states, leading to protracted declines in state capacity.

In nineteenth-century Latin America states systematically survived frequent and severe warfare providing an ideal setting to compare the long-winded effects of war outcomes. Bringing War Back In combines comparative historical analysis with cutting edge social science methods to provide a comprehensive picture of state formation in this region that is compelling for readers across disciplines. Leveraging historical statistics and archival work in the United States, the United Kingdom, and four Latin American countries, the book offers a historical account of major wars, shows how international threats systematically triggered state building, and demonstrates that victors and losers were set into divergent trajectories that rigidified into the twentieth century, when wars were conspicuously absent. This classical bellicist theory provides a compelling explanation for the variation in state strength and development that we see today both within Latin America and beyond.

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