A Positivist-Conservative Reaction by David Bushnell

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The chapter The Regeneration and Its Aftermath: A Positivist-Conservative Reaction (1885-1904) of David Bushnell’s book was written in 1993 in the USA. Specifically, in this chapter, the author analyzes the events preceding the Thousand Days’ war in Colombia and the secession of Panama (Bushnell, 1993). The text opens with an analysis of the background to the civil war and ends with economic, political, and social effects. In general, The Regeneration and Its Aftermath describes one of the most important events in the history of the formation of the Colombian state.


Considering the activities of Rafael Nunez, Bushnell enters into a discourse on the president’s influence on subsequent events, including the civil war. The author expresses that the repeated theory of Nunez directly influenced the bloody events (Bushnell, 1993). The work makes a significant contribution to the discussion about the root causes of the Thousand Days’ war and the reasoning about whether Nunez was a dictator. Historians who study Colombian history can gain some valuable insight into the root causes of one of the most significant events in the country’s history. For example, Mahoney, R. D, in What Everyone Needs to Know, uses Bushnell’s work as one of the main ones in writing a modern guide to Colombian history (2020). The author adds to the discourse several significant arguments in support of his thesis: the impact of the economic crisis, the uncompromising actions of the president, and the unrestrained popular discontent.


David Bushnell uses chronological narration to organize his historical text. A documentary account of events is the basis for any historical work, including this chapter. Chronological presentation is important for understanding cause and effect, which is especially useful when discussing the causes of war. The author begins the narration with a description of the events preceding the governing of Nunez, then the effect of his reign, a summary of the events of the war, and the secession of Panama. To analyze the cause-and-effect relationship, Bushnell sets out the events in chronological order, inviting readers to analyze the effect of an event. From such an organization of the text, the argumentation becomes more convincing since it encourages even a reader who is not very familiar with the events to analyze historical events independently. In addition, the author uses simple and accessible language, which serves as another means of persuading the reader. The purity and comprehensibility of causal relationships provide a strong argument’s right message.


To support the thesis, Bushnell cites a study by the historian Charles Bergquist, who points out the intensified economic crisis as one of the main causes of the civil war. The work is not a theoretical review of previous studies and does not rely on them. For the only time in the chapter, a reference to a historical work is used to support the argument. The author presents his analysis of historical events without relying directly on the previous theoretical base. In addition, the chapter features photographs illustrating the historical context. They are not used to support the argument but immerse the reader in the historical context under investigation. To study the topic, Bushnell needs a theoretical term for the perception of Nunez as a dictator to prove the destructiveness of his policy. The author’s general approach can be described as conceptual, as he narrows the study to a specific topic and analyzes causes and effects.


Bushnell’s main thesis is that the dictatorship of Rafael Nunez directly influenced the beginning of the Thousand Days’ War. As arguments to support the thesis, Bushnell names the following negative consequences of Nunez’s policy. First of all, the absolute power of the dictator had negative consequences as a result of a change in the constitution. The crisis of foreign trade due to incorrect economic policy is also named one of the indirect reasons. Peoples’ discontent was also fueled by repression against the opposition. The president’s absolute power did not allow anyone to influence the destructive policy.

The introduction of support for artisans ensured a very precarious position for merchants. Due to problems with world trade, the gap between the rich and the poor has become especially high, and the inflation rate has increased (Bushnell, 1993). The repressive policy ensured the growth of popular discontent and the strengthening of the anti-government movement. In general, the author proves his thesis by illustrating the politician’s decisions throughout the story. The innovation of the historian Bushnell is that he is one of the first researchers to shed light on the prerequisites for the formation of Colombia.


Bushnell makes a significant contribution to the study of Columbian history. In the chapter described, the author examines the impact of Nunez’s reign on the social, economic, and political spheres, as well as on the beginning of the Thousand Days’ War. The significance of the work lies in the fact that this is the first complete study of the historical events that led to the formation of Colombia. Even outside of Latin America, historians can provide valuable arguments for investigating the causes of the civil war. The work may be of interest not only to historians but also to a wide range of people who want to expand their knowledge of the history of Colombia.


Bushnell, D. (1993). 6. The Regeneration and Its Aftermath: a Positivist-Conservative

Reaction (1885-1904). The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself, University of California Press, pp. 140-154. Web.

Mahoney, R. D. (2020). Colombia: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press.