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Sunday, June 16, 2019

SIMON BOLIVAR: THE GREAT LIBERATOR (World Landmark Series) by Arnold Whitridge



Published in 1954 by Random House.

In the 1950's and 1960's Random House created an extraordinary history series for children called Landmark Books. There were 122 books in the American history series and 63 in the World Landmark series. A very solid description of the series can be found here: link. When I was a kid my little hometown library had what seemed like an endless shelf of these books (I even remember where it was in the library nearly 40 years later). Undoubtedly, these books are part of the reason I am a history teacher.
Simon Bolivar (1783-1830)

This book is part of a subset of the Landmark Books series. If the book took place outside of the United States the book belonged to the World Landmark Books series.

Simon Bolivar was born in the Spanish colony that is now Venezuela. He was educated in Spain but was keenly aware that the government of Spain considered the colonies to be inferior to Spain and incapable of self-government. He doubtless shared that belief until he began to spend time with the children of the Spanish ruling class (including the future King of Spain) and discovered that they weren't all that impressive. Once Napoleon conquered Spain and put his brother on the throne, Bolivar pushed for a revolt. Some, like Bolivar, were pushing for independence no matter who was on the throne, but others who joined him simply wanted to revolt as a part of a general resistance to Napoleonic rule.

Regardless of the initial motivations, Bolivar soon led a multi-colony revolt that went on for 11 years. Eventually, Bolivar helped to liberate the colonies that make up the modern countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

Many have compared Bolivar to George Washington, including Arnold Whitridge, the author of this book. There are surface similarities, but Bolivar's fight was much longer and (I would say) much more of a geographical challenge. Bolivar crossed the Andes range multiple times with armies that suffered horrific losses simply from the geography. In fact, while doing a bit of research on Bolivar while writing this review, I found that the Wikipedia page for Bolivar does a much better job of stating the sheer monumental scope of his accomplishments than this book did. For example, he fought in 79 major battles, traveled 10 times the distance of Hannibal, 3 times the distance of Napoleon and twice the distance of Alexander the Great. If you can be can be compared favorably to that crowd, you are truly a military genius. In this respect, Washington certainly comes up short.

Sadly, Bolivar was not a political genius and he could never figure out a way to unite the former Spanish colonies into one large country that he wanted to call Gran Colombia. This is where Washington's strengths come into play. Not only was he able to win the military fight, he was able to help establish the concept that the colonies were going to become one country and the military would not lead that country.

This book is aimed at students from 3rd to 8th grade. It is a simple read with line drawings. It could use a few more maps. To be fair, it was merely an "okay" introduction to Simon Bolivar and his accomplishments (see above about the Wikipedia page).

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: 
SIMON BOLIVAR: THE GREAT LIBERATOR (World Landmark Series) by Arnold Whitridge.

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