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For God and Liberty

Catholicism and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1790-1861

Pamela Voekel

Publication Date - 29 November 2022

ISBN: 9780197610206

432 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


The Age of Revolution has traditionally been understood as an era of secularization, giving the transition from monarchy to independent republics through democratic movements a genealogy that assumes hostility to Catholicism. By centering the story on Spanish and Latin American actors, Pamela Voekel argues that at the heart of this nineteenth-century transformation in Spanish America was a transatlantic Catholic civil war. Voekel demonstrates Reform Catholicism's significance to the thought and action of the rebel literati who led decolonization efforts in Mexico and Central America, showing how each side of this religious divide operated from within a self-conscious intercontinental network of like-minded Catholics. For its central protagonists, the era's crisis of sovereignty provided a political stage for a religious struggle. Drawing on ecclesiastical archives, pamphlets, sermons, and tracts, For God and Liberty reveals how the violent struggles of decolonization and the period before and after Independence are more legible in light of the fault lines within the Church.


  • Places the Catholic Church at the center of political conflict in nineteenth-century Latin America
  • Demonstrates that both ultramontane and reformist Catholics in Latin America formed part of larger transatlantic networks
  • Draws on untapped archival correspondence from ecclesiastical archives and analyzes numerous largely unexamined pamphlets, sermons, and tracts

About the Author(s)

Pamela Voekel is Associate Professor of History and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of the prize-winning Alone Before God: The Religious Origins of Modernity in Mexico and is a co-founder of the Tepoztlán Institute for the Transnational History of the Americas.


"For God and Liberty definitively and artfully overturns the secularization thesis with respect to Latin America's great Independence movements. At the heart of the nineteenth-century wars of Independence was a sprawling, transatlantic religious conflict that pitted two different visions for the future of the church: one imperial, papal, and monarchical and the other regional, democratically governed, and laicized. Pamela Voekel expounds this grand thesis with unrivaled archival acuity and skill. Historians of religion, politics, democracy, and secularism will be reckoning with Voekel's magnum opus for decades to come." -- Jennifer Scheper Hughes, author of The Church of the Dead: The Epidemic of 1576 and the Birth of Christianity in the Americas

"A riveting, argumentative account of subversive Catholic thought and action as the vital clue to understanding Latin American independence and early republicanism. With particularly illuminating research on Central America, it invites consequential debate regarding politics on the cusp of transcendence." -- Brian Connaughton, author of The Guadalajara Church and the Idea of the Mexican Nation, 1788-1853

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Empire of Faith
    Chapter 1: Drawing the Religious Battle Lines
    Chapter 2: The Rivals Muster
    Chapter 3: The Sacred Polity
    Chapter 4: The View from the Vatican
    Chapter 5: Escalation and Confrontation
    Chapter 6: The Literary Barricades
    Chapter 7: "Religious Passion Tore Us Apart"
    Chapter 8: The Long Shadow: Mexico's Reforma

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