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The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821.

The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821. By Eric Van Young. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. Pp. xi, 702. $75.00.)

This monumental study provides clear insights into a previously cloudy era by sketching out compelling personal portraits on the basis of massive archival research. Moreover, Eric Van Young revives the human experience of these elusive years while carefully interpreting the relevant sources.

This book is a meaty read. Chapter 1 is a detailed, emphatic discussion of the author's distinctly original cultural methodology. The author concludes that the average age of the insurgents was thirty and that over half these rebels were indigenous. Van Young provides a solid overview of the 1808-1810 agricultural crisis that helped trigger the insurrection. He notes that the testimony of captured insurgents stressed their need for military wages and captured goods. Indigenous notables tended to avoid the insurgency. Given their prior collaboration with the Spanish colonial regime, romantic motives for joining the revolt are also outlined, often with zesty details. One also learns that rebel leaders quarreled with one another, freed political prisoners routinely, canceled debts to Spanish merchants, and permitted rebel Indians to sack villages.

Van Young also discovers much conflict between priests and their parishioners. Interfering with village elections, punishing indigenous inhabitants, and forcing them to pay burdensome clerical taxes caused many people to resent the clergy. Particularly novel is Van Young's estimate that 80 percent of the priests remained loyal to Spain.

The central thesis of this outstanding book is that long-standing local conflicts often generated episodes of village riots or reignited older passions that moved in totally opposite directions from those attributed to better-known leaders of the insurrection. This indigenous revolt, which generally broke out spontaneously in village plazas and nearby buildings, often had more in common with a desire to maintain some form of monarchy than with the autonomous rule sought by Creoles. Therefore, many rural insurrections isolated themselves from similar outbursts within nearby communities. The rural nature of the insurgency and the relative peace in the Europeanized cities clinches Van Young's thesis of an indigenous revolt, which, until now, has been ignored.

Although this is a tremendously stimulating study with a first-person narrative that conveys a refreshingly personal tone, there are various aspects over which one can quibble. A somewhat broader context would help place the many mini-stories in wider perspective. The precise nature of this rural insurrection remains a bit vague, and repetition is a problem. Some readers might question Van Young's assertion that the rebels generally did not bother Creoles and that violence most often fell upon European-born Spaniards.

These qualifiers, however, do not detract from the author's tremendous contribution. The atmosphere of rural life is highlighted compellingly from the author's exhaustive research and brilliant analysis.

Douglas W. Richmond

University of Texas at Arlington

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Author:Richmond, Douglas W.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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