The Tupac Amaru Rebellion

By Koch, Matthew | Canadian Journal of History, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

The Tupac Amaru Rebellion


Koch, Matthew, Canadian Journal of History


The Tupac Amaru Rebellion, by Charles F. Walker. Cambridge, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014. 376 pp. $29.95 US (cloth).

Charles Walker has produced an accomplished narrative history focused on the events of the Tupac Amaru rebellion of 1780 through 1782, and provides a far more detailed account of the conflict than has heretofore been available in English. Walker sees his study as enriching the extant scholarship by devoting more attention than other historians to Tupac Amaru's spouse, Micaela Bastidas, analyzing the role of the Church more carefully, ascribing much more importance to developments after Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui Tupac Amaru II's brutal execution in May of 1781, and giving "the reader a feel for the lived experience of the uprising" (p. 9). Already established as one of the most important historians currently studying late colonial Peru, Walker succeeds admirably in attaining each of these objectives.

Walker describes Bastidas as "a full-blown partner" (p. 55) in the uprising rather than merely an obedient wife. Her correspondence with Tupac Amaru shows that she was a trusted advisor, and some sources later described her as a more effective and stem leader than her husband. She ensured the rebel base at Tungasuca was well protected, and was central to the uprising's logistics, doing all she could to maintain a regular flow of recruits and supplies to the rebel forces. She could be very tough, threatening to execute kurakas (local Indigenous leaders) who did not comply with her orders. Walker argues that this partnership should not be considered exceptional, not only an extension of Bastidas's long-standing involvement in the wide-ranging commercial dealings of her muleteer husband, but as typical of Andean marriages of this period, in which women often were engaged extensively with the cash economy and managed the household budget. Walker sees evidence in the letters exchanged between Bastidas and Tupac Amaru of affectionate concern for one another's safety, but also raises the issue of Bastidas's testimony when captured by the colonial authorities: she alleged she was beaten by her husband, a claim he did not deny.

Walker contributes a thoughtful chapter on the role of the Church. He contends that some of his predecessors have made too much of decidedly limited support for the rebellion amongst the clergy. Walker sees Bishop Moscoso of Cuzco as the heart of resistance to the rebellion in its earliest phase, and without his strenuous efforts, Walker argues, Cuzco may very well have fallen to the insurgents. Walker stresses the profound Christianity of Bastidas and Tupac Amaru: they refused to silence priests within the areas they controlled who preached against the insurrection. …

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