A debut book provides the first comprehensive account of military operations during the Mexican Revolution to appear in English.
For reasons both practical and ideological, history scholars have long neglected to rigorously study the Mexican Revolution as a uniquely interesting military event. Instead, it has been interpreted as little more than the stage for unsophisticated guerrilla actions. In this work, Janssens dismantles that long-held prejudice, arguing that the full spectrum of conventional warfare was on display, including genuinely masterly strategy. The book subdivides into three sections, or “volumes,” that neatly correspond to the three successive phases of the war: the initial rebellion spearheaded by Francisco I. Madero, the grand-scale mutiny against the Huertista regime, and the final year, in which the revolution devolved into civil war. The author also challenges the prevailing view regarding the role the U.S. played in the revolution, acknowledging its significance as a source of influence but debunking the theory that it determined Mexico’s fate like a puppet master. This requires a searching examination of American policies and interests, which shift in various ways over the course of two presidential administrations. Finally, Janssens analyzes the fluid contours of what he refers to as the “Defense Establishment,” an investigation that hinges upon a historical understanding of modern warfare in general. The author was granted access to Mexico’s official defense archives—a rare coup—and the breadth of literature on the Mexican Revolution he considered is dizzying. Janssens, clearly intent on breaking new scholarly ground, spiritedly attacks the conventional theories regarding the genesis of the revolution; of particular interest is his discussion of the limitations of a reductively Marxist interpretation. The author openhandedly acknowledges that such a mountain of minutiae might exhaust the reader’s patience; it often seems as if the goal of comprehensiveness comes at the expense of readability. This is certainly not for the casual reader looking for a breezy introduction. The monograph, ambitiously designed to be both encyclopedic and iconoclastic, succeeds on both grounds. It is hard to imagine a study more sweeping in scope, more liberated from the regnant ideologies, or more scrupulously researched. It is unfortunate that its length (698 pages) and obsessive details will likely prove prohibitive to all but the most tenacious professionals.
A remarkable examination of the Mexican Revolution that should be regarded as a watershed contribution to the field.