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Greenberg has written a lively political history of the Mexican war and the substantial but disorganized opposition to it. Key players include Henry Clay, James K. Polk, Nicholas Trist, and Abraham Lincoln: all deftly characterized with a few well-chosen anecdotes. The military history is covered in broad strokes - for more detail on that, a better choice would be Martin Dugard's Training Ground. But if you want a clear and vivid picture of the machinations that led to the war and to its ultimate conclusion, this is the book for you.
There are obvious parallels with more recent wars, some of them opposed by many in the US, but Greenberg doesn't hit us over the head with that. Apart from a few somewhat anachronistic references to "embedded journalists," she leaves us to our own conclusions. This is political history, not politicized history.
Caroline Shaffer's narration is equally lively. At first it seemed discordantly "peppy" to me, but as I got used to her style of delivery, I realized her unflagging energy was keeping me drawn to the story. All in all, I really enjoyed it.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
First of all, look at my name, it’s Jose. I am not a historian but I do know some Latin American history. The author of this book does not know a thing about Mexico, Latin-American culture, and the Spanish Empire. I think she is an expert in PC topics like gender studies and race baiting. Lesson #1 for Non-Latins, we Latins are not victims. The Mexican-American War was the culmination of a Tiger vs. Tiger struggle for supremacy in North America. The Mexicans and Spanish before them chose not to adopt free-market capitalism and trade as the economic system, the USA did and they whipped us. The better ideas won, that’s cool. This book has so much fake content that I don't know what can be trusted.
Basically, the author hates America, this book would not have been written differently if the KGB were asked to describe “Manifest Destiny” and “American Exceptionalism”. At the detail level, what Polk did is not different than Bismark taking pieces of Denmark, Austria, and France; Peter the Great taking Finland; Catherine the Great taking Crimea; and Suleiman taking Constantinople. With few exceptions, these events were true blood baths. The battle of Buena Vista is not even a skirmish when viewed on the scale of Constantinople.
Another thing, the author's obsession with slavery is weird. Until the industrial revolution was brought to us by the English and Americans, slavery, feudalism, and serfdom was a part of human life-since day-1. Never before had slavery been unknown. Do we need to re-write history to include that Julius Cesar, Alexander, Peter the Great, Louis XV had a slave/serf body servants? How about the Soviet Gulags and Chinese labor Camps full of unpaid labor, can we re-title Stalin as a slave owner and Mao as an enslaver?
Facts that make the book fake:
(1) The Spanish had a Manifest Destiny slogan too, “The World is Not Enough” and “Further Beyond”, then they ran out of money to fight the world after the 30-Years War.
(2) How did Mexico get so big pre-1840? The answer, the territory was just loose claims from Spanish “New Spain” and they conquered every Indian tribe that had some wealth or choice farm land.
(3) The Texans were allowed entry by Spain not Mexico in the late 1790’s
(4) The Texans were allowed entry to fight Apaches and Comanches because Mexican territory south of the Rio Grande was being raided by the Comanches
(5) The Mexican leaders had their own form of slavery, called encomienda and they got peasant labor through feudal right
(6) The Mexican leaders then and today are largely Mediterranean whites, not the brown skin dudes that cut lawns in the USA
(7) Mexico fought Spain for Independence? Nope, it was a civil war of elites because Spain did not survive the Napoleonic War in Europe as an Empire
(8) Mexico was not and is not a Republic; it was actually founded as the Empire of Mexico under the Emperor Inturbide
(9) The Empire “fell” due to more Civil War and they eventually settled under a war lord named Santana during the Texas independence conflict, then had more Civil War afterwards
(10) What were the Mexican Civil Wars about? Other than to see who is president, nobody truly knows. Nominally, you had liberal elites that favored laws and systems like Revolutionary France and you had conservative elites that favored laws and systems like Imperial Spain. The non-elites caught in the middle were basically the victim of a failed economics was always Statist.
(11) The “Southwest” of 1800 was basically an amorphous relationship of French control of Mississippi River Ports, USA farmers and frontiersmen attempting commerce, Native American tribes, and Spanish claims.
(12) Travel between Natchez and Nashville was extremely dangerous and treacherous. The French control of St Louis did not exceed far beyond the city center. The Comanches were basically the Tartar raiders of central North America.
(13) The Comanches kept Spanish soldiers huddled in the mission courtyard of the Alamo. Spain and later Mexico exercised Zero Control of Texas relative the Native Americans and the Americans they imported. The only permanent residents in the land were the Native Americans
(14) The British did have an economic interest in the Southwest. If they wanted the USA out of Texas or California, they would have financed Mexico and given Naval support to stop the US. At the end of the day, they rather do business with the USA, who was and is a more reliable fiscal nation than Mexico
(15) Texas cotton was for Export! To the British and USA.
(16) If you think Mexicans consider themselves to be Indians or esteem the Indians, please find a wealthy Mexican and call him an Indian and see what happens.
(17) In Mexico, the wealthy consider themselves to be Europeans not Native American
(18) Santana had a massive plantation, the author thinks he paid for the labor on his plantation
The narrator is good when talking in English. She should not attempt Southern or Mexican accents, it sound extremely bad.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful