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Paraguay plays a very small role in the modern world, but for part of the nineteenth century it was a significant regional force. Between 1800 and 1865 it changed from an imperial backwater into a dynamic, dictator-led, financially sound nation. Then came the terrible War of the Triple Alliance, and by 1870 Paraguay had virtually been destroyed. John Hoyt Williams re-creates the era's people, places, and events in rich detail and a vigorous style, but this is much more than a mere narrative. His archival research in Paraguay and several other countries enables him to offer new facts and interpretations, correct a number of misapprehensions, and explode a few myths. He also provides the clearest, most objective portraits available of the three extraordinary men who ruled Paraguay during this time: Dr. Jose Gaspar de Francia, "El Supremo"; Carlos Antonio Lopez, "the Corpulent Despot"; and Lopez's flamboyant son Francisco Solano Lopez. Discussions of social, economic, and cultural conditions round out a masterly account of a remarkable historical period.