By Denis Smith
978-1-927789-12-4 (ePub) / 978-1-927789-13-1 (Kindle)
Napoleon called him “a Quixote who was not mad… a man who has a sacred fire in his soul.” President John Adams said his plan to liberate Spanish America was “as visionary as an excursion to the moon in a cart drawn by geese.”
For 30 years the Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda plotted to free Spain’s colonies in the New World. Miranda lived a fabled life as an adventurer and mercenary soldier, supported by powerful patrons in England, France, the United States, and Russia. He was paid and protected by William Pitt of Britain and Catherine the Great of Russia, fought for France as a revolutionary general, was tried for treason in France, attempted to invade New Spain in 1806 with two hundred raw recruits, and for a few months in 1812 was the first dictator of an independent Venezuela. Betrayed by his deputy Simón Bolívar, Miranda was taken prisoner and died in a Spanish dungeon as Bolívar renewed his war for independence.
In this work of creative nonfiction, award-winning Canadian author Denis Smith tells a compelling story of intrigue and misadventure, posing questions about empire, diplomacy and the quest for freedom which continue to resonate today.
“This is a sure-fire five-star read for anyone even mildly interested in Europe and the Americas during the revolutionary era. As one reads it, one sees parallels with the current, post-colonial struggle in the Middle East — the overthrow of tyrants and the search for justice and proper, representative government.
The chief actor, Francisco de Miranda, was a dreamer, a schemer, and a revolutionary leader who met and dealt with all the major political figures of his time — in Europe and America. A man of great charm and a notable fore-runner of Simon Bolivar.
The structure is particularly good: the amusing encounters and at times tense actions are told, in large part, through passages deftly drawn from contemporary documents. This gives this tale an extraordinary sense of immediacy and reality. This is a poignant history that reads like fiction.”
–Eric Bergbusch, retired Canadian diplomat and former ambassador.
“I enjoyed General Miranda’s Wars immensely. The perfect book for me at this moment. Of course I knew the British characters and their dilemma over Spain’s colonies, particularly after 1808 when Spain became its major ally against Napoleon, but I had no idea of the extent of Miranda’s attempted influence and manipulation over such a long time and all his other European adventures. He certainly was one of the great adventurers in an age of them and you tell the story very well. The light fictional device is brilliant in holding together the great number of documents from many sources and the inevitable gaps in them. Being so tied to the evidence, the device would never have occurred to me. I can’t imagine that there could be a better evocation of Miranda.”
–Dr. Neville Thompson, Author of Canada and the End of the Imperial Dream, Oxford University Press
“I read Miranda’s Wars with fascination and admiration. Knowing Francisco de Miranda mainly as a South American rebel and rakish traveller in the fledgling USA, I was amazed by his Russian journeys, London intrigues, and quixotic adventures in the Caribbean. What a rare combination of dreamer, fabulist, narcissist, courtier, and man of action. Although he must have been utterly infuriating to have any dealings with, Miranda’s lonely death in a Spanish jail is nonetheless sad and moving.”
–Ron Wright, author of A Short History of Progress and What is America?
“Who was the real Miranda? An adventurer, a visionary, a charlatan, a conceited fool, a liar? A charismatic leader or a practised demagogue? A nobody with good fortune or a genius with bad luck? Whatever, conventional history portrays Miranda as a hero, but this book reveals as many contradictions and shadowy corners as there are episodes in Francisco de Miranda’s hectic life…. This has been one of the best historical tales I have read in a long, long time.”
—Spanish and Catalan writer Miquel Angel Maria
Read or write a review of General Miranda’s Wars on Goodreads here.
Purchase General Miranda’s Wars from the following retailers: