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Fire And Blood: A History Of Mexico by T. R.…

Fire And Blood: A History Of Mexico

by T. R. Fehrenbach

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Fire and Blood is popular history in the best sense, though not without some of the faults of the genre. On the positive side, the author presents a strong, clear narrative based on an impressive array of published sources, mostly in Spanish. His account is reasonably well-balanced. The only characters presented as purely black are Victoriano Huerta, whose dictatorship sparked the Mexican Revolution and led to the constitution of 1917, and the U.S. ambassador of the time, Henry Lane Wilson. The only unblemished angel is Álvaro Obregón, whose post-Revolution presidency set the template for Mexican governance, for better or worse, until the collapse of the PRI's political monopoly at the turn of the 21st Century.

On the negative side, most historians would be delighted to be as certain about anything as Mr. Fehrenbach is about everything. There is no doubt in his narrative, no need to resolve conflicting judgments about men or events. The complete absence of footnotes makes it difficult to check the bases for the text's confident assertions. In this respect, the book is more like a nonfiction novel than a work of history.

The author's evaluations also waver strangely. He routinely praises the policies of "state capitalism" followed by most Mexican administrations since the Revolution, insisting that the country lacked the human and economic wherewithal for a genuine free market. Yet he also routinely deplores the inequality, poverty, corruption and bureaucratic misrule that are dirigisme's most conspicuous progeny.

Fire and Blood was originally published in 1972, then brought up to date in 1995. It thus covers only the early phases of the transition to multi-party democracy and completely omits the rise of the drug cartels and the ensuing de facto civil war. For readers who want to know what led up to Mexico's present distress, the book is a lively and generally reliable guide. ( )
1 vote TomVeal | Dec 1, 2010 |
This history covers Mexico up to the 1970s. It is particularly interesting in terms of Fehrenbach's characterization of hispanic and other cultures encountered in his story. The dreary repetition of a small group seizing control and running the country for its own benefit is repeated over and over. ( )
  baobab | Apr 13, 2010 |
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The rise of man in ancient Mexico is shrouded in mystery.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0306806282, Paperback)

There have been many Mexicos: the country of varied terrain, of Amerindian heritage, of the Spanish Conquest, of the Revolution, and of the modern era of elections and the rule of bankers. Mexico was forged in the fires of successive civilizations, and baptized with the blood of millions, all of whom added tragic dimensions to the modern Mexican identity. T. R. Fehrenbach brilliantly delineates the contrasts and conflicts between them, unraveling the history while weaving a fascinating tapestry of beauty and brutality: the Amerindians, who wrought from the vulnerable land a great indigenous Meso-American civilization by the first millennium B.C.; the successive reigns of Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Mexic masters, who ruled through an admirably efficient bureaucracy and the power of the priests, propitiating the capricious gods with human sacrifices; the Spanish conquistadors, who used smallpox, technology, and their own ruthless individualism to erect a new tyranny over the ruins of the old; the agony of independent Mexico, struggling with the weight of its overwhelming past and tremendous potential. Throughout the narrative the author resurrects the great personalities of Mexican history, such as Motecuhzoma, Cortes, Santa Anna, Juárez, Maximilian, Díaz, Pancho Villa, and Zapata. Fehrenbach, who has updated this edition to include recent events, has created a work of scholarly perspective and gripping prose.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:52 -0400)

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