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Reviewed by:
  • La Independencia: Los libros de la patria
  • Will Fowler
La Independencia: Los libros de la patria. By Antonio Annino and Rafael Rojas, with the collaboration of Francisco A. Eissa-Barroso. Mexico City: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, 2008. Pp. 244. Notes. Bibliography.

The bicentenary of the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) has resulted in a veritable frenzy of events and publications on the subject. From 2004 (if not before), scholars from all walks of life started mobilizing. Conferences, symposia, and colloquia were organized all over Mexico and beyond, apposite research projects were developed with noteworthy enthusiasm, and 2010 became a focal point—nay, feast—of reflection and frantic academic activity. As Mexican authorities geared up for what became a truly astounding calendar of elaborate patriotic festivities, the historiography of the Mexican War of Independence received more attention than ever before. Are we any wiser as a result? I would like to think we are.

What can be confidently stated is that over the last decade the War of Independence has been revisited, revised, and studied from an astounding variety of new (and not so new) perspectives. There have been constellations of studies on how each region’s experience of the War differed, on the impact and legacy of the Bourbon reforms, and on the economic, social, and political grievances that provoked the revolutionary outbreak of 1810, addressing collective as well as individual motivations. We have gone from being persuaded by some historians that the insurgency was an incipient patriotic anticolonial movement to learning from others that it was a civil war. We have reflected over the extent to which it was a social revolution, whether the conflict was driven by a multitude of extremely local grievances, or whether it was just the Mexican expression [End Page 137] of the transatlantic age of democratic revolutions—the Mexicans’ response to the collapse of the Spanish monarchy following the 1808–1814 Napoleonic occupation of the Iberian peninsula. In the face of so many different and complex interpretations, this introductory overview of the historiography of the War of Independence from Annino and Rojas is a particularly welcome and helpful volume.

In La Independencia, with Annino looking after the nineteenth century in the first essay and Rojas taking care of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the second, we are offered a clear, concise, and balanced chronological review of the historiography of the Mexican War of Independence. The book charts the evolution of the historiography and its development, from the first accounts of the conflict to about 2008. While the two essays are mainly descriptive and driven by the sequence in which the different interpretations of the war were published, going (for example) from the precursors of creole patriotism (Francisco Javier Clavigero, Andrés Cavo, Servando Teresa de Mier) to the generation of independence (Carlos María de Bustamante, Lorenzo de Zavala, José María Luis Mora, Lucas Alamán) and on to the historians of the Reforma and beyond, Annino and Rojas find time and space to step back and reflect on the historiographical shifts that affect how we have come to interpret the texts here under discussion in more recent studies.

Annino interprets nineteenth-century historiography in terms of conflicting “patriotisms:” creole patriotism (captured in writings published on the eve of the War of Independence), patriotism at war (the interpretations penned by the Generation of Independence), notable or worthy patriotism (a post-Reforma movement led by “notables” or worthies), and nationalist patriotism (that of the late Porfirian historiography). Rojas divides the twentieth-and twenty-first century historiography in terms of the books of both the 1910 centenary and the 1921 centenary and the patriotic texts of the post-revolutionary period, paying special attention to the rise of indigenista, agrarian, and Marxist interpretations in the wake of the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War. Attending to the professionalization of the discipline that came about in the second half of the twentieth century, Rojas takes a long view of the historiography of the last 50 or so years; toward the end of his study, he adopts a more thematic approach, highlighting the main revisionist shifts and...


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