The caudillo of Spanish America was both regional chieftain and, in the turbulent years of the early nineteenth century, national leader. His power base rested on ownership of land and control of armed bands. He was the rival of constitutional rulers and the precursor of modern dictators. Hisis a dominant figure in Latin American history. John Lynch explores the changing perception of the caudillo - bandit chief, guerrilla leader, republican hero - and examines his multi-faceted role as regional strongman, war leader, landowner, distributor of patronage, and the `necessary gendarme'who maintained social order. Professor Lynch traces the origins and development of the caudillo tradition, and sets it in its contemporary context. His scholarly analysis of this central theme in the history of Spanish America is underpinned by detailed case-studies of four major caudillos: Juan Manuel de Rosas (Argentina),Jose Antonio Paez (Venezuela), Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (Mexico), and Rafael Carrera (Guatemala). This is an important contribution to our understanding of political and social structures during the formative period of the nation-state in Spanish America.