Ridley ( Elizabeth I ) offers a highly-detailed narrative of Napoleon III's strange, tragic mid-19th-century effort to install the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian as emperor of Mexico. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Ridley ably reconstructs the battle between Mexican liberal nationalists and conservative monarchists, the role of liberal leader Benito Juarez, the intervention of the Great Powers and the background of the indecisive archduke. The complex story includes debates over religious tolerance, jockeying over alliances with the Confederate States or with the Union, and the persistence of Juarez's guerrillas against the occupying French. When Napoleon, who had banked on a Confederate victory, wished to avoid war with the United States, he began a process that led to liberal victory and Maximillian's capture and execution. Those unfamiliar with the story may find the book, which would have benefited from a supplemental time line or chronology, confusing. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)
This well-researched history is an unsentimental look at the French intervention in Mexico (1862-67). Ridley ( The Tudor Age , LJ 9/15/90) focuses on the political tug-of-war between the Old World and the New. He does not indulge in the romanticism that sometimes shrouds this subject; his Maximilian is much less sympathetic than the man portrayed in Joan Haslip's The Crown of Mexico ( LJ 5/1/72). Ridley emphasizes the larger political battle fought in the United States and Europe and the often brutal means by which this battle was waged by both sides in fierce and gruesome guerilla war. Maximilian's fiscal and personal failures are ably contrasted with Juarez's cool integrity, though more detail on both their lives would have helped flesh out the book. While not a definitive history of the French intervention, this is a solid, well-written popular book. Recommended for general collections.-- Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&I Univ. Lib., Kingsville
The well-told story of the attempt by Napoleon III to establish Archduke Maximilian of Austria as the emperor of Mexico. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This is one of the oddest but most interesting episodes in Latin American history, and popular British historian Ridley adeptly broadcasts the story to a wide audience. It goes like this. The factions of conservatism in post-independent Mexico thought a constitutional monarchy was the form of government most suitable to Mexico's needs, yet liberal forces wanted a democratic republic. In the 1860s the conservatives made a deal with Emperor Napoleon III of France whereby they approved French intervention in Mexican affairs in return for Napoleon's support of a monarchy for Mexico. The candidate selected to be the Mexican ruler was Archduke Maximilian, younger brother of the Austrian emperor, and in 1864 he was proclaimed emperor of Mexico. Opposing the new regime was the leader of the republicans, Benito Juarez, a native Mexican. The Maximilian administration soon proved itself hopeless, particularly once the American Civil War was finished and the U.S. could turn full attention to ridding its southern neighbor of the European parasite. Maximilian lost, Juarez won; in fact, the ill-fated emperor had to face a firing squad. The two protagonists were fascinating individuals, and Ridley renders them with fine shading.