Saturday, July 07, 2007

Book Review: "A Glorious Defeat"

In A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and its War with the United States (Hill and Wang, 2007) historian Timothy Henderson provides a good general introduction to the roots and causes of the U.S.-Mexican War. Examining the issues largely and effectively from the Mexican perspective, Henderson distills the weaknesses in Mexico's post-independence political, social and economic systems which, he argues, forced the country into war with its northern neighbor.

The military conflict we know as the Mexican War takes up just twenty pages toward the end of this 190-page book; the vast majority of the text treats the major and widening differences between the United States and Mexico in the early decades of the nineteenth century (in 1800, Henderson states, total income in the U.S. was twice Mexico's; by 1845 it was thirteen times greater, pg. 18). Continuous political and military upheaval in Mexico from independence in the early 1820s through the late 1840s and beyond contributed greatly to the instability which led to war, Henderson maintains, as did Mexico's inability to maintain its control over the region of its territory we now know as Texas.

After Texas' annexation by the United States in 1845, Henderson argues, "peace was an entirely sensible but politicially ruinous proposition" (pg. 150). Provoked into a war the nation could not win (a conclusion Henderson believes was held by most Mexicans), Mexico's leaders concluded that "desperate glory of death on the battlefield seemed preferable to the ignominy and compromise of surrender" (pg. 191).

A solid book, concise and readable. Decent footnotes and a good list for further reading.

No comments: