Bolivia, a republic on the west side of South America, deriving its name from the liberator Bolivar, and formed in 1825, till which year, as Upper Peru, it had formed part of the vice-royalty of Buenos Ayres. It is enclosed by Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, the Argentine Republic, and Chili. Its coast provinces Bolivia lost to Chili through the war carried on by Bolivia and Peru against Chili in 1879-83. The area of the republic is new 536,000 sq. m., and the population is probably under 1,800.000, though some estimates give 2,300,000. Bolivia contains the greater part of. the loftiest and most mountainous district of America, as comprising a section of the Andes system at its broadest extension. The lofty plateau of Oruro, with an average height of 13,000 feet, and about 150 miles broad, is enclosed between the Andes proper (now the western boundary of Bolivia), and the Cordillera Real, to the east. There are also intermediate ranges and isolated groups; of the volcanoes, all the western region, Sahama, Illampu, and Illimani, are over 21,000 feet high. The great plateau falls into two parts, of which the northern is the more inhabited, as containing the Lake of Titicaca and many well-watered valleys round it. The southern and lower tableland is chiefly a desert. The Cordillera Real system descends abruptly, on the north, to the plain of the Amazon: but its eastern edge is a series of terraces, sinking gently to the plains of eastern Bolivia, which in the north belong to the Amazon basin, and in the south to the pampas of the Plata.
Although situated entirely within the tropics, Bolivia, from its varied elevation, possesses a wide range of climate and productions. In the punas (over 11,000 feet high) the climate is cold and dry, and the vegetation scanty. The valleys of the eastern terraces, between 9500 and 11,000 feet, have a temperate climate, and wheat and maize are produced; in those between 5000 and 9500 feet, tropical fruits flourish. East of the inner Cordillera lie the plains under the 5000 feet limit. This district, with its numerous streams, its luxuriant tropical vegetation, its rich forests of valuable trees in the north, and its immense open savannahs in the south, surpasses most countries of South America in fertility and resources. Coffee, rice, cacao, coca, pineapples, bananas, tobacco, cotton, and the valuable cinchona are cultivated; and among other important plants are the copal and caoutchouc trees. In the punas are found the guanaco, llama, alpaca, vicuna, and the chinchilla; in the east, jaguars and tapirs. Mining is the most important industry of the country; for its gold, silver, copper, and tin ores have long been famous, in spite of the excessive cost of transport. The mines of Potosi are estimated to have produced since 1545 over £600,000,000 sterling of silver. Potosi, Oruro, and the richest mine, Huanchaca, still produce large quantities annually. From the landlocked position of the republic, its foreign trade labours under heavy disadvantages, for its great rivers, flowing mainly by the Madeira to the Amazon, and by the Pilcomayo to the Parana, are rendered unnavigable by rapids. More is to be hoped for from the railways, which have reached Bolivia from Chili, Peru, and Argentina; telegraphs also connect Bolivia with the outer world. The exports are stated to have an annual value of £1,800,000 - two-thirds silver, and the imports £1,200,000. The exports to Great Britain vary from £140,000 to £200,000; the imports from thence from £45,000 to £100,000, being chiefly iron, cotton, woollen, and manufactured goods.
The population of Bolivia is a mixture of half-caste Spaniards and Indians, and a few negroes. The Indians are partly civilised (Quichuas and Aymaras), partly semi-civilised (Chiquitos and Moxos), and partly wild. The religion of the country is Roman Catholic, but others are tolerated. There are five universities; but only 5 per cent. of the children of school age attend the schools.
The executive is vested in a president, with two vice-presidents, and a ministry divided into five departments; while the legislature consists of a congress of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives, both elected by universal suffrage. The public revenue, between £700,000 and £800,000, is usually greatly exceeded by the expenditure. The public debt is set down at about £2,000,000. The seat of the executive government, formerly La Paz, was transferred in 1869 to Oruro, and now changes between Oruro and Sucre. The chief towns are La Paz (45,000), Cochabamba (14,705), Chuquisaca or Sucre (12,000), and Potosi (11,000). Bolivia declared its independence 6th August 1825. Its history has been largely a series of restless and purposeless revolutions. Slavery was abolished in 1836. In 1879 a war broke out between Chili and Bolivia allied with Peru, of which the issue was disastrous to the allies.
See, besides books of travel in German or French by Tschudi (1856), D'Ursel (1879), and Wiener (1880), works on Bolivia by Church (1873), Mathews (1879), and Child (New York, 1894).