In This Review

A Concise History of Mexico
A Concise History of Mexico
By Brian R. Hamnett
Cambridge University Press, 1999, 333 pp

A superior, accessible history of Mexico that does full justice to the origins of the country's complex multiethnic and multicultural texture. This feature, argues Hamnett, still affects contemporary events and helps explain Mexico's curious mix of dynamic transformation and the persistence of tradition. The author takes the reader deep into Mexico's pre-Columbian period, giving unusual emphasis to its indigenous background and placing the European incursion after 1519 in its long-term historical context. Indeed, the entire book seeks to consider Mexico's full historical and geographical dimension rather than just the last 150 years. On this broad canvas, Hamnett then paints the origins of Mexico's contemporary economic problems; the tensions between constitutional power, interest groups, and individuals; the role of federalism and centralized power; the struggle between liberalism and Catholic tradition; and the role of nationalism. He ends in 2000 with a succinct examination of the politics of democratization. This formidable synthesis offers one of the best introductions to Mexico available in English.