Understandably, few English writers have given much heed to the Mexican Revolution, the major phases of which coincided with the First World War in which Britain had to fight for her very life. Most of the studies of the Mexican Revolution written in English are by Americans whose works often seem to fall into one of two broad categories. The first comprises those works that stress the picturesque, the exciting, and the sensational, usually linked with virtual hero-worship of some outstanding figure of the Revolution; the second includes works which are so “scholarly” that they lack life, and in which the men and women of the Revolution are overshadowed by trends, influences, sociology, and economics.
The author of the present work, Mr. Ronald Atkin, is an English journalist who speaks Spanish fluently and who conducted a major part of his research in Mexico and the United States. As an Englishman he has been able to achieve an objectivity and impartiality that few Americans and no Mexicans could attain. His style is lively and vivid; he includes sufficient “human interest” material to hold the reader’s interest without losing sight of the great issues that were at stake in the Mexican Revolution. In a few descriptive phrases, the author characterizes each of the figures of the Revolution, as he introduces them, in a way that makes them human beings—gives them flesh and blood. For example, the first mention of Pascual Orozco, is illustrative: “A tall, gaunt mountaineer with blue eyes and freckled face.. . .”
The writer gives an adequate discussion of the background and causes of the Mexican Revolution, the tyrannies and abuses of the Díaz dictatorship, the oppression of the masses under the widening feudalism of the Díaz regime, and the impossibility of effecting any changes as long as Díaz held power. The narrative follows the events of the Revolution from Madero’s first abortive efforts, through the Huerta episode, the long drawn out struggle between Carranza and Villa to Carranza’s death and the inauguration of Obregón as President of Mexico. The narrative is well organized, and the interrelationships between the confused and confusing events of the long revolutionary period are clearly expressed.
The author has relied largely upon secondary sources, but has exercised great discrimination in his choice of authorities. He has also availed himself of information from surviving participants. He makes no attempt to give a new interpretation of the Mexican Revolution nor does he attempt any new evaluation of the leaders of the Revolution. He is neither pro, nor anti-Carranza; Zapata emerges as a sincere revolutionary commander, but not a demigod.
To summarize, this is a well planned, well written history of the Mexican Revolution; it is proof that a scholarly work need not be dry and dull; that an authoritative work can also be entertaining; and that a revolution is something effected by human beings, not by impersonal forces. In short—a good book.