This work immediately takes its place at the head of the list of comprehensive, single-volume histories of Mexico. As a textbook for courses in Mexican history it fills an obvious need. As a summary and reference work for the general reader it is superior to all others. Among works in English it will be recognized as more sophisticated than Parkes, more temperate and balanced than Simpson, more concrete and informative than Cumberland, and more accurate and up-to-date than any of these.

The achievement of Meyer and Sherman is in one sense testimony to the abundant historical scholarship now available. It would not be excessive to state that for every period of the history of Mexico—preconquest, early and late colonial, nineteenth century, Porfiriato, Revolution, and post-Revolution—our knowledge and our interpretations have undergone far-reaching revisions in our own lifetimes. Small wonder that earlier general treatments appear meager and old-fashioned. But the achievement is also testimony to the authors’ familiarity with this new literature, their assessment of its positive and negative features, and their ability to synthesize it in a single presentation. No one can now be an expert on the entire subject. Keeping up with the new research in a single period or area—meaning of course more than a perfunctory reading of what is published—is as much as any serious scholar can now aspire to. Assembling the data for a modern general work and presenting this material in a coherent and readable form, even for the bare narrative of what occurred, are now demanding tasks.

Meyer and Sherman know the monographic and periodical literature well. The new data on population, society, haciendas, the Porfiriato, national budgets, and other subjects are summarized and blended with the classic accounts. As in the sources on which they depend, the strongest periods are the conquest and early colonial, independence, and 1910-1940. The weakest are 1610-1760 and 1821-1855. In dealing with controversial topics, the authors adopt a position of moderation with appropriate citation of differing opinions. Their tone is factual and practical. Preconquest archaeology and history are admirably reviewed. Political history predominates in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with one chapter out of every four or five on sociocultural topics in successive periods: “Society and Culture in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century,” “Society and Culture in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century,” “Society and Culture during the Porfiriato,” and so forth to the present time. The format allows for ready categorization, it reflects the specialized literature, and it represents a commendable effort to confront new topics. But I think we would have to admit that in the long history it tends to give society and culture an attenuated look. Ironically in political history a great many specific events, eminently describable but of dubious historical value, occur. The contrast is especially notable in the Santa Anna years. For the period since 1940 this work comes through with unexpected strength. The romanticization of an obsolete Revolution together with the suggestion of neo-Porfiriato tendencies in the 1970s is sensitively and sensibly handled.

Of course I have a few criticisms. Would we all agree that Revillagigedo is “considered to have been the most outstanding ruler of New Spain”? I look in vain in the index for some favorites among people (Mendieta, Alzate, Lorenzana, Manuel Gamio, Edmundo O’Gorman), institutions (congregación, composición, Banco de Avío), and places (Teotlalpan, Nochistongo, Paracutin). A bibliography confined to English and Spanish sources inevitably omits some items of importance. Placing a bibhographical list of works in English at the conclusion of each chapter involves unnecessarily awkward problems of selection, omission, and repetition, and I think that one or more annotated, critical bibliographies would have been preferable. Moreover, the present bibhographical lists should receive a thorough reexamination for accuracy.