The Republic of Cinnabar series is a science fiction series based on various incidents in Earth history. This one is based on Thomas, Lord Cochrane's activities in helping Chile get free of Spain. Cochrane was seeking in South America what the Bush Administration is seeking in Iraq: patriots who wanted peace, good government and national prosperity more than they wanted to enrich themselves and their relatives. These were, and are, in short supply.
They're not that easy to find in American politics, although the dedicated work of many Congressmen and Mayors continues to inspire, (Senators, not so much.)
Here's what David Drake had to say about the historical context.
What comes through powerfully in every English memoir I've read involving Latin America at that time is that almost none of the players (Bolivar may have been a exception) had a concept of a nation that was greater than the individual's own clan/family/tribe ruling as many of its neighbors as possible. Consistently when a region revolted from the colonial power (Spain or Portugal), the districts revolted from the capital and then the wealthy magnates revolted from the district government (which was generally run by one of the several powerful families in that district). The magnates than spent their time in burning out rival magnates.
If you've been following Latin American politics for the past fifty years or so (I suspect the problems go much farther back, but I personally don't), you might reasonably come to the conclusion that nothing much has changed. For even more vivid modern examples of clan-based politics, consider Iraq and Afghanistan.
The business of When the Tide Rises is taken largely from real events in Chile, Peru, and Brazil. The major naval action, however, is based on the 1811 Battle of Lissa. (The 1866 Battle of Lissa is fascinating, but in fiction you couldn't make one side as incompetent as the historical losing side was. As one example, the gun crews of the defeated flagship forgot to load shells and therefore fought the battle firing blank charges.)
I write to entertain readers, not to advance a personal or political philosophy (I don't have a political philosophy); nonetheless, my fiction is almost always based on historical models. When you read When The Tide Rises,you might occasionally think about today's news and remember that it'll be tomorrow's history.
Heaven knows, I thought about the news while I was writing.Introduction To When The Tide Rises.
[Disclaimer: David Drake is not responsible for this posting—I'm just quoting him.]