The English-speaking world, which determined more than 30 years ago that political history was passé, instead focused primarily on the social, culture, gender, and other “sophisticated” topics. Scholarly literature in the Romance languages and German, on the other hand, has reexamined political institutions, politics, and political processes — or “the political,” as the nouvelle histoire politique calls it. Moreover, it has focused on the elite as well as the subalterns. The new political history written in those languages during the last three decades has transformed our understanding of the process of independence and the formation of new nations in Latin America.

El temor a las multitudes, written by a young Spanish historian, is an excellent example of this new work. Her study examines the political transition of New Spain to the republic of Mexico. Based on an exhaustive analysis of the...

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