W. Dirk Baat introduces this book by explaining that it is about “rebels and authority; revolution and the suppression of revolution.” It concerns the revoltosos, the political dissidents and refugees who used the United States as a base for insurrectionist activity in Mexico. Because of a common interest in controlling them, the ruling elites of both countries developed “a binational police and espionage system,” consisting of private detectives, immigration officials, and secret service agents, which resulted in infringements upon individual rights and civil liberties. The issue produced a kind of international class war. Although the book covers the years 1903-23, Raat concentrates on the period 1906-13 and the activities of the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM).

Happily refusing to characterize Ricardo Flores Magón, Antonio Villarreal, and Librado Rivera merely as “precursors,” Raat respects their historical integrity and depicts them as authentic, radical alternatives to Francisco Madero. Having begun as liberal reformers, they became full-blown advocates of anarcho-communism. Although never very influential among campesinos and peones, the Magonistas posed a revolutionary threat by appealing to those petit-bourgeois and working-class groups in northern Mexico most affected by foreign enterprise and modernization. Their international links with socialists and anarchists, including Mother Jones, John Kenneth Turner, and Big Bill Haywood, offended North Americans as being both foreign and radical.

To keep watch, President Porfirio Díaz established an international detective agency under Enrique Creel and appealed for aid from United States officials, relying upon extradition, deportation, and sometimes kidnapping to bring the exiles to heel. Raat describes this part of the story, “the diplomacy of suppression,” in fascinating terms. President William Howard Taft, although initially sympathetic to Díaz, even to the point of ignoring the law, ultimately concluded in May 1911 that he could not count upon the Mexican president to uphold the peace. The switch to Madero entailed some incongruities—the binational police and espionage system previously used against him now helped to sustain him with United States support—but aptly expressed Taft’s preference for moderates in power rather than radicals. By backing Madero, Taft undercut Flores Magón. A similar calculation later contributed to the recognition of Venustiano Carranza. The Woodrow Wilson administration also carried out antiforeign and antiradical campaigns, and revoltoso activity declined accordingly. Raat marks the end of an era with Ricardo Flores Magon’s death in 1923.

A short summary cannot do justice to the color and descriptiveness of this book. It is rich in detail and cogent in argumentation. Readers will learn that the PLM had a significant female component and that the term “Pinkerton,” applied generically, referred to the operatives of the Furlong Agency in St. Louis. They will also find interpretive questions sensibly addressed: for example, whether Standard Oil bankrolled Madero or whether Flores Magón was the victim of assassination. Raat based his narrative on an impressive array of primary sources in Mexico and the United States and shows that clandestine activities among states figured prominently even during “the innocent years.”