These volumes constitute three of the intended four books dealing with the years 1940-52. These years constitute a pivotal period for Mexico during which the revolution underwent an important transition. Given the previous dearth of scholarship dealing with this era, these volumes open up important new ground.

There are, of course, problems inherent in multivolume, multiauthored series. The decision to examine foreign and domestic affairs for each presidential term in separate volumes, while understandable as a division of labor, effectively prevents analysis of the interaction between domestic and foreign events. This is especially problematical during an era in which events such as the Second World War affected the actions of all governments of the world. That separate authors prepared the volumes in question also complicates the situation, for items hinted at in one volume are not always covered in the companion work, and the authors are not necessarily in agreement regarding the significance or causes of the events involved.

These studies are based principally on a broad range of published materials, and scholars in the United States will undoubtedly be surprised by the virtual absence of references to Mexican documents. The authors rely mainly upon newspapers, though secondary works from both Mexico and the United States, official publications from Mexico, and the memoirs of participants in the Mexican governments are also employed extensively. In addition, the treatment of domestic events uses the published proceedings of the Mexican Congress. There are also some limited citings to newspapers published in the United States. Most interesting, in studies prepared by Mexican historians, citations from the United States State Department documents vastly outnumber references to Mexican records. While the abbreviation list includes an impressive array of archival depositories in Mexico, the reader must search diligently to encounter even an occasional citing from any of them in the footnotes. Regrettably, the important documentation contained in the Archivo General de México and the Archivo Histórico del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores has been virtually ignored. As a result, the studies focus on the publicly visible aspects of these regimes.

Treatment of domestic politics by Luis Medina constitutes the most perceptive portion. Manuel Avila Camacho emerges as a conciliator who unified the splintered revolutionary factions and guided the nation and the revolution through a significant transition period while healing the wounds caused by the policies of his predecessor. The importance of developing a new mission for the revolution after the reforms of Lázaro Cárdenas had completed the movement’s agenda is clear. The author effectively demonstrates the difficulties caused by the political factions headed by former presidents Abelardo Rodríguez and Plutarco Elías Calles, noting the measures employed by Avila Camacho to retain control of the party. The relationship between the president and his predecessor is treated in a much more limited manner, with scant attention to the difficulties caused by Cárdenas and his supporters. While the pivotal role of Vicente Lombardo Toledano is clear, the important role of Maximino Avila Camacho, the president’s brother, receives scant attention.

The examination of foreign relations during the Avila Camacho regime approaches the era entirely within a dependency framework. Despite the use of United States documentation, there is no effort to explain the constraints within which the United States operated during the Second World War. While Washington is shown as repeatedly denying Mexican requests, the reasons for these decisions are seldom discussed. The needs of the war effort and the limits imposed by production of items needed for the armed forces and the resulting shortages in the United States domestic economy are entirely ignored. The needs of the allies and the requests from other Latin American nations are also not discussed. Yet all these factors affected Washington’s ability to respond to the Mexican requests. As such, the volume details the rationale of Mexican policy rather than the interaction between the United States and Mexico. Although many of the Yankee actions deserve criticism, a more balanced effort to understand the constraints upon Washington and problems of the wartime era would enable a more effective analysis. Within the dependency context, Avila Camacho is criticized for yielding too much to the Yankees, an interpretation quite different from that of the companion volume covering the domestic aspects of this era. Discussion of the pivotal debt and oil negotiations relies almost entirely upon existing secondary works, and hence sheds little new light on these important and complex exchanges.

A shorter survey of domestic politics during the regime of Miguel Alemán clearly shows the significance of the emergence of the executive and the new primacy of the federal government, which were designed to deal with the difficulties caused by internal party disputes and eliminate local abuses, thereby completing the conciliation and reunification of the revolutionary factions undertaken by Avila Camacho. In this discussion the key role of the actions of Avila Camacho, such as the electoral law and the subordination of the military to civilian rule, begun by Cárdenas and completed during the Avila Camacho years, are clearly demonstrated. Yet these factors become clear only in retrospect. That these efforts placed excessive power in the hands of the president, resulting in a “new authoritarianism,” does not alter the fact that the subordination of the governors, local powers, and the military to the federal government and specifically to the primacy of the executive branch was a necessary expedient to counter earlier abuses.

All three volumes reflect a deference to the primacy of Cárdenas in the Parthenon of revolutionary heroes, significantly emphasizing his role and judging other leaders by their support for, or deviation from, his policies. While the degree varies among the authors, there is little critical examination of Cárdenas’s role or the polarization caused by his actions. The series is lavishly illustrated, but while the photos serve to provide visual images of the leaders, they do not always correspond to the text or fit the captions. For example, while several photos of propaganda critical of Exequiel Padilla are included, the discussion of the 1946 election makes no mention at all of the smear tactics mirrored in the posters in the illustrations.

The strongest portions of these studies are the discussions of the domestic political maneuvering attendant on the election campaigns. Consideration of the emergence of the official candidates, the opposition they faced, and the election campaigns and maneuvers is detailed and effective. The efforts of the labor unions, and the actions of the official unions are also clearly detailed, and this discussion emphasizes the role and importance of Vicente Lombardo Toledano and the emergence of Fidel Velázquez.

Collectively, these three works provide an overview of a neglected era, serving to suggest directions for future research despite the limitations of their sources and the exigencies of space. They serve to indicate the need for further study of the complex factors involved in this era of transition. These volumes will be highly useful to future interpreters of modern Mexico.