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Spanish American Independence

Viva La Libertad!

Free exhibition

Mon 24 May - Fri 20 Aug 2010
Folio Society Gallery, British Library

Latin American history has been marked by several forms of revolutions, the most important being the struggle for political emancipation from Spain and Portugal that began in 1810. Viva la Libertad! explores the events that contributed to the formation of the Spanish American republics.


At the beginning of the 19th century, after nearly 300 years of Spanish colonial rule, wars of independence broke out in Mexico, Central and South America. These revolutions led to the formation of the 18 Spanish-speaking nations we see today in Latin America.

The British Library holds a wealth of material relating to the history of Spanish American independence: books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, personal letters, political pamphlets, music scores, stamps, state papers and other official documents.

This feature focuses on the campaigns for independence in Spanish America during the 1800s and the 1820s, and the creation of the contemporary nation-states in the region. It also discusses the involvement and impressions of British witnesses.

Text by Iona Macintyre. Curated in association with the Americas Collections at the British Library.

enlarged image Enlarged image Source: José Joaquín de Olmedo, La victoria de Junín, London, 1826.
Heaven Will Grant Us Vengeance and Glory

Image: Venganza y gloria nos darán los cielos/Heaven Will Grant Us Vengeance and Glory [BL 11450.d.26]

Caption: The Victory of Junín is an epic poem written by Olmedo that celebrates the Battle of Junín in 1824 in which revolutionary troops led by General Simón Bolívar defeated Spanish forces in present-day Peru. This edition was published in London in 1826. The engraving depicts Huayna-Cápac, one of the last Incan emperors, who died fighting the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century. The Inca ruler returns from the dead and appears to Bolívar’s troops prophesising bloodshed and the eventual defeat of the Spaniards.

In association with the University of Nottingham Department of Hispanic and Latin American Studies.

Funded by AHRC

University of Nottingham AHRC

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Discover more:
The origins of the independence movement
in Spanish America
The Spanish American republics
Britain and Spanish American independence

British travelogues of independence-era
Spanish America

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