These are the final volumes of a major study of the Mexican Revolution begun under the direction of Daniel Cosío Villegas. The entire topic was divided into eight time periods, most of which were allocated three or four volumes. The two devoted to 1952-1960 do not present a self-contained and inclusive description of the events of that period. Rather, they offer a series of essays on various aspects of Mexican political and economic life of the era by individual authors. Neither volume is indexed, but each includes a wholly inadequate listing of persons mentioned in the text. Both are profusely illustrated, though in many cases the contemporary photographs, engravings, or cartoons do not add materially to understanding of the material at hand.
Considering the original comprehensive conception of this history of Mexico’s Revolution, based on Don Daniel’s undoubted talents as an historian, the present two works are disappointing. This may be because the specific, topical approach precludes presenting a complete or unified description of the Revolution during the years involved. Or, as I have suggested to historians previously, this kind of topical emphasis seems to replace good, wide-scope historical analysis with poor sociology or economics. In this case, the reader is left with a feeling that the several authors of the essays do not share a common conception of what the Revolution is or of what it portended during the 1950s. In one sense the essays tell us more about individual writers’ psychological or ideological outlooks than about the subject itself. Perhaps because the events studied are so recent—I worked on Mexican politics at this time—one feels that certain of the essays reflect the conventional wisdom of the period’s intellectual marketplace rather than a balanced and dispassionate interpretation of conditions which resulted in particular revolutionary patterns.
Insistence upon using applied social science approaches to write history requires acceptance of the whole methodology of the disciplines involved, including the systematic checking and cross-checking of all sources involved in order to evaluate their possible biases Too many historians fail to accept this responsibility. For one of many possible examples in the present works, I was disturbed to note, despite the authors’ comments on the inadequacies of reporting in Mexican newspapers and journals, how frequently they accepted at face value reports on events from publications which obviously did not present a rounded picture. Few Mexican media sources are so objective that their statements can be accepted unless verified in other publications. I did not get the feeling that the authors of these essays always followed this simple expedient.
In general, while the materials in these two volumes present useful reviews and compilations of the topics they address, they provide few new insights and they do not place their findings effectively in the context of a more general understanding of Mexico’s most compelling historical movement. This is not history in the grand tradition.