New Spain’s viceroy when the Bourbons capitulated to Napoleon in 1808 was José de Iturrigaray (1742-1814). A soldier by profession and an opportunist by instinct, Iturrigaray gained the prestigious viceregal post in 1803. Such success was due more to a political marriage and loyalty to Godoy than to any special merits as statesman or administrator. Scholars since Lucas Alamán have been tempted into historical ifmanship: Suppose Iturrigaray had met the challenge and had masterminded criollo independence in 1808? Might not Mexico have then been spared those years of misery down to 1821—now glorified as the Wars of Independence—and eased into a more serene political course in the mid-nineteenth century?

But the viceroy was not made of hero’s stuff. Eventually his more resourceful compatriots in the peninsular coup of September 15, 1808, overmastered him. Cut out of Godoy’s coattails, guilty of enormous peculation, Iturrigaray was a pitiful not tragic figure. His significance stems, indeed, from his failure to be an event-maker. His ouster set a precedent for illegal usurpation of power in New Spain at a time when moral authority was but barely sustained by the beleaguered Junta of Seville. The criollo conspiracies of the next two years were an obvious response to that precedent.

The present version of Iturrigaray’s rule and ignominious elimination is a competent scissors and paste job. Francisco Santiago Cruz has put together ample selections by Alamán, Bustamante, and other worthies; Abad y Queipo carries the narrative alone for five pages. Always careful to acknowledge indebtedness, Santiago Cruz has provided a clear summary. He does not, however, preempt the field, nor does he challenge the Spanish archival mastery and scholarship of Enrique Lafuente Ferrari. A thorough study of the crisis of 1808 based on Mexican archives is still very much needed.