First Advisor

Friedrich E, Schuler

Term of Graduation

Spring 1998

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Costa Rica -- Armed Forces -- Political activity, Costa Rica -- Politics and government -- To 1821, Costa Rica -- Politics and government -- 1821-1948



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 145 pages)


In Costa Rica at the time of independence a central government did not exist, and even after its organization, it remained very weak. Due to this fact military officers stepped forward to control and govern each town. After controlling each town military officers fought for political control of the country. During these years to become a military officer was the best professional career to follow. Military officers were looked upon with respect, fear and power. As a result military culture became the social realm which controlled towns and guided state formation in the 1820s.

Before and after independence in Costa Rica the main political institution was the town council. Whoever had the largest representation in that institution dominated the political life of each town. After independence the military maintained a large representation in the towns and thus was ready to dominate political life in Costa Rica. Their domination of "national" politics through the towns provoked regional secessions, lasting personal resentment and a national civil war. Furthermore, any emerging national government had to rely upon the cooperation of military officers.

Before the formation of Costa Rica as a national political entity, town councils served as a thermometer for the elites in their competition for power. Each group competed for more seats and control in the town council. Military officers as a group had more seats at town councils than any other group. In return, they were the power holders and decision makers. As a result of military divisions among towns, military officers fought a war to control the political orientation of the country. After the war military officers imposed their will and ran the country.

This study comprises of three main parts: an overview of the social organization of Costa Rican town life in the 1820s, the functioning of political institutions in towns and an examination of the military as the key actor in Costa Rican history.


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