The turbulence that was 19th century Mexican history is here clarified by identifying the major forces, liberal vs. conservative, and spotlighting the salient personalities -- Juarez, of course, Santa Anna and Maximilia. The result is dramatic (but not dramatized) history, fast-reading and arresting. Starting with the Azecs and the conquistadors, the authors explain the conflict between selfless and selfish Spanish motives and the quick ascendancy of the latter; the methods of Spanish military, religious and economic control; the division between Spanish-born gachupines, Mexican-born Creoles, mixed-blood mestizos and full-blood Indians, and their various alignments; the increasingly resented wealth and autonomy of the Church; the increasingly pervasive liberal ideas descended from Locke; Father Hidalgo's spontaneous urprising and its continuation by Father Morelos, the two establishing a tradition of revolt. Meanwhile Juarez, the barefoot Indian, wins an education and becomes a local leader. To list the contents further would be merely to summarize history: suffice to say that the authors do justice to the spectacular santa Anna and the paradoxical Maximilian as well as to Juarez, the sober democrat whose later paternalism they place in political and psychological context. More succinct and historically astute than the juvenile biographies of Juarez, this is less for youngsters who want to know the particulars of his life than for those interested in its significance.