Mark Wasserman has taken on the considerable task of making sense of the history of the turbulent nineteenth century in Mexico. The author also proposes to revive “lively narrative” and “colorful biography” as tools of the historian in order to achieve a “balance” (p. 4) between analysis and narrative. As a result, Mexico comes to life in his new study, Life and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Mexico. The book weaves together three watersheds (independence, reform, and revolution) and the lives of three prominent politicians (Antonio López de Santa Ana, Benito Juárez, and Porfirio Díaz) with three principal themes.

The first of these themes, “the struggle of the common people to retain control over their everyday lives” (p. 3), dominates the book. Relying on recent regional histories, the author stresses two fundamental points: that politics in the nineteenth century was, above all, local and...

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