Most of the documents presented in this important volume are selections from the dispatches of the two French ministers in Mexico between 1858 and 1862: Alexis de Gabriac and Alphonse Dubois de Saligny. Approximately one third of the book is devoted to de Gabriac’s reports. From Mexico City, the conservative capital, de Gabriac observed the War of the Reform, and he saw clearly the importance of Veracruz to its outcome. Because the liberals held the port city, they controlled the chief source of revenues. Lacking these funds, the conservatives resorted to desperate measures in the hope of raising money. Their difficulties were not only financial; internal dissension racked the party. There were large areas of the country over which neither side exercised effective control, areas that were characterized by anarchy. These conditions led many Mexicans to fear that the United States would use the occasion to absorb their country.

De Saligny arrived in Mexico in November 1860, and one of his earliest dispatches described the entrance of Juárez into Mexico City in January 1861. “Juárez hizo su entrada en la capital de una manera completamente democrática rodeado de oleadas del pueblo ¡y qué pueblo Dios mío!, que lanzaba los gritos más ridículos y las vociferaciones más inquietantes.” In his reports de Saligny captured the atmosphere prevailing under the new regime: tumultuous meetings of the political clubs, the executive-congressional fights, and as always, the scrabbling for money. Guillermo Prieto, he reported, was an incompetent secretary of the treasury. The whole scene reminded the minister of Paris in 1793. Quite obviously he had little sympathy with the liberal administration, and when Mexico suspended payments on the foreign debt, he called for foreign intervention.

The last section of the book contains documents bearing on the joint intervention of France, England, and Spain in Mexico. The translation from the French by Lilia Díaz is smooth and apparently accurate. She has also provided a fifteen-page introduction which helps the reader to understand the era.