An “informal empire,” according to Aguirre, is “kinder and gentler” than one that takes over foreign lands by violent force. Britain thus drew Mexico and Central America into its orbit following independence (in contrast to Spain’s earlier conquest of those regions) by means of diplomatic recognition and the promise of commercial development that seemed to offer safe and rewarding tradeoffs, until the last years of the century when the U.S. took over as its erstwhile protector. Aguirre, a professor of English literature, has done extensive research throughout Great Britain and studies not only literary texts but also much political and cultural material. Among his other scholarly tools, the author uses “museology” (museum studies) to trace how British control was realized. He begins examining the work of William Bullock, who traveled to Mexico in 1823 and then mounted an exhibit of Mexican archaeological and...

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