In this engaging book, Eric Van Young traces the political, economic, and social development of Mexico through the crucial one hundred years of its remarkable transition from a relatively prosperous Spanish colony to a violently unstable republic marked by economic stagnation, political confrontation, and burgeoning efforts at modernization. Featuring primary sources from figures of the period, Van Young discusses the political instability of the period—internal warfare, military uprisings, intermittent dictatorships, sharp conflicts among political groupings—and attributes them to a belief by political actors in the fundamental lack of legitimacy in central government institutions after the sweeping away of the Bourbon imperial structure and its replacement first with a very short-lived Mexican empire followed by a series of increasingly authoritarian aspirational republican constitutions.
Eric Van Young is Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego. His books include The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821, winner of the 2002 Bolton-Johnson Prize.
Van Young, a noted Mexicanist, here details a century of Mexican history, spanning 1750–1850. He focuses on Mexico’s often stormy transition from colony to nation and posits that his contribution is more of an “extended interpretive synthetic essay” than a general survey text. This is an apt way to cast the title as it is expansive in scope yet offers significant insight from a noted scholar who has made a career of studying this period. The work is friendly to readers who may have minimal historical knowledge of Mexico’s past, and the analysis and compact nature of the narrative offers more advanced students and scholars new ways in which to interpret this critical period. There is much to unpack, ranging from decolonization and the impact on Mexican society to the successes and failures of modernization. Van Young’s work has a place on the bookshelves of anyone interested in Latin American or Mexican history. It can also serve as a core or supplemental text for relevant courses. Recommended.
This book is a wonderful, confident, readable interpretation of a period in Mexican history to which Eric Van Young has devoted his distinguished career. It could take the place of a textbook in any class on Mexican history because of its scope, even as its interpretive edges give students much to chew on and debate. It should also find an audience beyond the classroom among non-experts who are interested in Mexico. Scholars will have the greatest admiration for the depth of knowledge and the keen, mature historical sensibility that shines in every page.
Stormy Passage offers us a deeply thoughtful narrative about the enduring significance of Mexican history by one of its most committed scholars. Using the metaphors of tempests and storms, Eric Van Young addresses the dual problems of modernization and decolonization from the entwined perspectives of imperial hegemony, state formation, and the internal development of Mexican society. Organized in three parts, the book mirrors the life of statesman and historian Lucas Alamán during the crucial century of transition between colonialism and the Mexican nation, as subjects became citizens in a complex social mosaic of Indigenous peoples, Afro-Mexicans, and ethnically mixed strata of diverse economic and cultural lifeways.
Elegant and incisive as ever, Eric Van Young takes his readers through the scarring wars, decapitalization, traumatic territorial loss, fiscal penury, and internal strife that marked Mexico’s century-long transition from Spanish colony to independent liberal republic. It is a magisterial narrative of a society’s struggle for an ever-elusive nationhood, political legitimacy, and internal development that rejects tired tropes of inevitable failure, corruption, and irrevocable colonial predestinations so often invoked in histories of Latin America and instead focuses on soberly analyzing what was sought and what was possible in the shadow of an expansive United States. A must-read for anyone seeking to understand the limits of decolonization in modern Mexico.
This is an outstanding piece of synthesis. It offers a perfect introductory overview of everything that was important in Mexico between 1750 and 1850. This is, hands down, the best introduction to Mexico’s history from colony to republic that anyone can buy.
7/27/2023: New Books Network: Host, Richard Grijalva interviewed author Eric Van Young about his book Stormy Passage.