Francisco Bulnes is one of the most intriguing and controversial personalities to emerge during the years of Porfirio Díaz. This excellent volume is the first scholarly treatment and objective analysis of this talented polemicist and his works. Professor Lemus, who specializes in Mexican historical and political literature, not only analyzes the many writings of Bulnes, but also those of his critics and supporters.

Although not a member of the elite group whom the Mexicans nicknamed the científicos, Bulnes was one of the leading exponents of Mexican positivism, which served as the philosophical justification for the program of the Díaz regime. Although Bulnes praised Porfirio Díaz for having achieved order and economic progress, he openly criticized the dictator for having neglected political progress. As a delegate to the National Liberal Convention of 1903, Bulnes publicly asserted that it was the obligation of the Díaz regime to permit the formation of meaningful political parties, and he boldly implied that a revolution might be necessary to achieve this objective. On the basis of this discourse, writes the author, Bulnes can be considered “as a precursor of the famous Revolution of 1910” (p. 51). In place of personalist or popular governments, Bulnes advocated that an oligarchy, aristocratic or plutocratic, would best fulfill the needs of Mexico.

Lemus contends that Bulnes represented the middle ground between the liberals and conservatives of the period and consequently was criticized by both. The conservatives denounced him for his anti-Catholic views, while many of the liberals branded him as a reactionary and a traitor to the liberal cause. This liberal denunciation resulted largely from the publication of El verdadero Juárez, in which Bulnes destroyed the consecrated image of Benito Juárez. The reaction was so intense that one member of congress wanted to deny Bulnes his seat in that body, while Bulnes himself considered migrating to the United States. This work and others have led critics inside and outside of Mexico to denounce Bulnes for his sophism, prejudiced interpretations, defamation of national heroes, cynicism, and iconoclasm. The author’s judgment of Bulnes’ motivations is clearly stated in his preface and emphasized throughout the text. He writes: “In spite of the passion which occasionally led him down the wrong roads, Bulnes was a spirit devoted to truth, whose primordial interest was the betterment of his country” (p. 7).

The author organizes this work into five parts. The first four parts, which comprise half of the volume, are devoted to the life and personality of Bulnes, a description and definition of Mexican positivism, Bulnes’ political philosophy and participation in government, and his views on Spain and Spanish America. The fifth part is devoted to Bulnes’ role as a historian and the history of Mexico through his works, which span the period from Independence to the triumph of Venustiano Carranza. The volume includes an extensive and useful bibliography.

Perhaps anticipating the reviewer’s criticism, Lemus admits that there are gaps in the biographical data of Bulnes. For his background, career, and personality the author relied upon printed sources and interviews with relatives and those associated with Bulnes. No mention is made of his private papers and correspondence. Nevertheless, this book contributes to a fuller understanding of the man and his times and merits the attention of those interested in Mexican history.