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Bill Thayer

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A History of Chile
Luis Galdames

The Author and the Book

Luis Galdames Galdames (1881‑1941), our author, was a Chilean, a historian, an educator: three facets, three loves of his life that defined him and made him the natural author of what was for several decades Chile's leading textbook on the history of his country. Born in Melipilla, the son of cousins, he was a brilliant student: by the time he was 19, he was a professor of history and geography at the Instituto Pedagógico of the University of Chile, and pursuing a law degree which he got three years later. His entire life was spent in education, as a teacher in various high schools as well as the National Institute: always of history, and sometimes additionally of law; he also wrote several books, the best-known of which include El decenio de Montt (1904) and Geografía económica (1911), and of course the work transcribed here in English translation, Estudio de historia de Chile, first published in 1906. By temperament he seems to have been a peacemaker and an optimist — he writes as one who strongly believes that human institutions are perfectible — and he helped found the Partido Nacional, a political party which tried to depolarize Chile: an oxymoron in any country, that only again the most inveterate optimist could have believed in, it failed pretty quickly. A biographical sketch of Galdames, in Spanish, can be found in identical copies on Icarito and Biografía de Chile.

If in Luis Galdames we have an engagingly clear-headed writer, as impartial as a man can get, and clearly in love with his country, in this American edition of his excellent book he was made to battle his translator who was by no means as good: Galdames's elegant Spanish has been rendered into cumbersome, wooden English in which downright mistakes not infrequently occur, and the translation exhibits thruout the classic technical flaw of transparency: we wind up reading an awkward version of the underlying Spanish rather than the target English. Nominally, the translator was Isaac Joslin Cox, but the English text as we have it betrays such a lack of familiarity with natural English speech and idiom that we can be fairly sure the actual job of translation was farmed out by the busy professor — whose own works are not written like this (see for example this article) — to a graduate student whose native tongue was Spanish. I've corrected one or two of the most egregious mistakes and noted a few more in the sourcecode, but you should stay on your guard, and for top-flight work, I recommend you find a copy of a Spanish edition, in which not only awkward phrasings will become clear but also the often muddy articulations. (A review in AHR 47:398‑399 — I can't put it onsite because it's still copyright, the link is to JSTOR — disagrees with me sharply on the translation, the style of which it calls "simple, direct, but pleasing" and calling it a credit to Prof. Cox; reader be the judge, of course.)



The Natives


The Spaniards


The Conquest


The Colonial Organization


The Growth of the Colony


Colonial Government and Society


The Movement for Self-Government


The Military Struggle for Independence


The Military Dictatorships


Anarchy and Organization


Chilean Society in 1830


The Autocratic Republic


The Decade of President Montt


The Liberal Republic


The War of the Pacific


The Period of Expansion


Cultural and Social Progress


The Parliamentary Republic


Democratic Orientation


Foreign Relations


Contemporary Social Development


Biographical Notes:



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Technical Details

Copyright, Edition Used

The original Spanish-language text, published in Chile by Galdames, rose into the public domain according to that country's laws in the year following the 50th year after the author's death, which occurred in 1941; it has thus been in the public domain since 1992. The edition transcribed here is the Russell & Russell reprint, 1964, of the edition by the University of North Carolina Press, 1941. The original copyright of the English translation, 1941, was not renewed in the appropriate year, which would have been 1968 or 1969, so the English text as well is in the public domain (details here on the copyright law involved) thus allowing the work to be reproduced onsite.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The edition I followed was very well proofread, with very few typographical errors. I marked the few corrections, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.


The book includes 22 photographs (of very varying quality and some of them so close to the book's gutter as to affect scanning) and four maps of Chile, all pretty arbitrarily placed, following the exigencies of binding more than anything else. I've taken the liberty of moving them to what I felt were the most appropriate places in the text, although their original placement is indicated in both the following table and the sourcecode of their respective webpages.

The maps in the print edition are in black-and‑white. For readability, I've colorized them; and since each of them relates to several chapters, and all of them to each other to some extent, I found it most useful and most economical to place them together on their own separate page.

Pedro de Valdivia



Facing page 14

Academy of the Fine Arts in Santiago

Facing page 15

A Square in Santiago

Facing page 15

Map of Colonial Chile

Facing page 142

Map of Revolutionary Chile

Facing page 143

José Miguelº Carrera

Facing page 286

Bernardo O'Higgins

Facing page 286

Diego Portales

Facing page 287

Andrés Bello

Facing page 287

Manuel Montt

Facing page 287

Antonio Varas

Facing page 287

Map of National Chile

Facing page 324

José Toribio Medina

Facing page 325

Diego Barros Arana

Facing page 325

Miguel Luis Amunátegui

Facing page 325

Gregorio Victor Amunátegui

Facing page 325

Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna

Facing page 325

Arturo Alessandri

Facing page 394

Pedro Aguirre Cerda

Facing page 394

José Manuel Balmaceda

Facing page 394

Modern Araucanian Woman

Facing page 395

A Modern "Huaso"

Facing page 395

A Ship of the Chilean Desert

Facing page 418

Chilean Nitrate Prepared for Export

Facing page 418

Gathering the Grape Crop of Chile

Facing page 419

A Copper Mining Center

Facing page 419

Map of Modern Chile

Facing page 440

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: A small photograph of what appears to be a sailboat. The image is further explained by a link on this webpage, and serves as the icon on my site for Galdames's book, 'A History of Chile'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite relates to one of Chile's great sources of wealth, and I've colorized it to the national colors of Chile. If it looks like a ship to you, you're right — sort of; see the full-sized photograph, found on p418 of the printed edition.

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Site updated: 3 Apr 16