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Review: "The Mexican Revolution, Volume I: Porfirians, Liberals, and Peasants"

Larry Slawson received his master's degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.

"The Mexican Revolution, Volume I: Porfirians, Liberals and Peasants"

"The Mexican Revolution, Volume I: Porfirians, Liberals and Peasants"

A Brief Summary

Historian Alan Knight’s book The Mexican Revolution explores the tumultuous years and decades surrounding the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Through a detailed analysis of political figures, rebel leaders, and events, Knight’s work illustrates the complex nature of the revolution which he argues was a direct result of Mexico’s ethnic, cultural, and geographical diversity (Knight 10). As a result of the strong divisions that existed across the Mexican state, Knight suggests that the revolution cannot be understood as a unified and cohesive movement against the Diaz regime. Rather, he argues that the event “displayed kaleidoscopic variations” due to its local and provincial roots (Knight 2). Although the Mexican people succeeded in removing Diaz and his regime from power, Knight points out that the Mexican Revolution “failed to produce either a vanguard party or a coherent ideology” as it unfolded due to local and regional allegiances (Knight 2). These alliances, he argues, all served to undermine liberal efforts at reform (led by Francisco Madero); thus, plunging the country into a state of conflict and contention in the years following 1910.

My Thoughts

Knight’s work is both informative and compelling with its findings and provides an excellent overview of the historiographical trends surrounding the Mexican Revolution. Moreover, his arguments and main points are well-supported and rely on an impressive array of primary sources that include: newspapers, letters, government documents, diaries, memoirs, and first-hand accounts. A major highlight of this work lies in Knight’s ability to describe the complex nature of the revolution in a narrative-driven format that is easy to read, while also retaining a strong, scholarly appeal. This is further augmented by Knight’s strong attention to detail; making this book appealing to both scholars and general audience members with no prior knowledge of Mexican history or the revolution itself. One clear shortcoming of the book, however, is Knight’s relatively brief discussion and focus on the initial moments of the revolution. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but more details pertaining to how the revolution unfolded would have been a nice addition to this work.

Final Verdict

All in all, I give this work 5/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in early twentieth-century Mexican history. Knight's book is the definitive work on the Mexican Revolution and should not be overlooked. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity, as it is a great read.

Questions to Facilitate Group Discussion:

1.) How successful was the Mexican Revolution in regard to its overall transformation of society?

2.) Is it reasonable to conclude that Mexico experienced greater peace and stability under Diaz than what political leaders could establish in the years following the revolution? In other words, did the revolution produce better or worse conditions (socially, politically, and economically) for the Mexican populace when compared to the years under Diaz?

3.) What role did the United States play in the revolutionary years?

4.) Could the United States have made a positive impact on Mexican society through a more direct and interventionist role in the years following 1910?

5.) Did you agree with Knight's main argument(s)? Why or why not?

6.) In what ways could the author have made this work better? Are there particular areas of the book that could have been altered? If so, specify.

7.) Who was the author's target audience for this book? Can both scholars and non-academic audiences appreciate the contents of this work, equally?

8.) Does Knight's work build upon modern scholarship in a profound way? If so, how?

Works Cited:

Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, Vol. I: Porfirians, Liberals and Peasants. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986.

© 2018 Larry Slawson