The Mexican Wars for Independence

Timothy J. Henderson

Hill and Wang

Mexico’s wars for independence were not fought to achieve political independence. Unlike their neighbors to the north, Mexico’s revolutionaries aimed to overhaul their society. Intending profound social reform, the rebellion’s leaders declared from the onset that their struggle would be incomplete, even meaningless, if it were merely a political event. Easily navigating through nineteenth-century Mexico’s complex and volatile political environment, Timothy J. Henderson offers a well-rounded treatment of the entire period, but pays particular attention to the early phases of the revolt under the priests Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos. Hidalgo promised an immediate end to slavery and tailored his appeals to the poor, but also sanctioned pillage and shocking acts of violence. This savagery would ultimately cost Hidalgo, Morelos, and the entire country dearly, leading to the revolution’s failure in pursuit of both meaningful social and political reform. While Mexico eventually gained independence from Spain, severe social injustices remained and would fester for another century. Henderson deftly traces the major leaders and conflicts, forcing us to reconsider what “independence” meant and means for Mexico today.


Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The Colony


In the year 1623, so the story goes, a man in the dusty village of San Juan de los Lagos in western Mexico was teaching hisyoung daughters to do acrobatic tricks on the trapeze. To make the show more compelling, he had the girls perform the tricks above several swords affixed in the earth and pointing menacingly toward the heavens. One of the girls fell, was impaled on the swords, and died instantly. The small corpse was taken to a nearby temple, where an old woman named Ana Lucia, renowned for her piety, was caretaker. Ana Lucia


Praise for The Mexican Wars for Independence

“Well-balanced and clearly argued ... Timothy J. Henderson points out in this slender but cogent study of a period seldom studied by U.S. citizens that Mexico's deeper struggle has always been with itself ... Henderson does a splendid job of unraveling the factions and cabals as they rose, formed alliances with one another, or faded into obscurity.” —Clay Reynolds, The Dallas Morning News
“Timothy Henderson has a gift for writing history. The individuals, the battles, and the results remain the same, but his narrative has a fresh, exciting quality. His engrossing history will hold the attention of undergraduate students and grizzled experts. He has written the best short history available.” —William H. Beezley, Professor of History, University of Arizona
“This is a comprehensive and thorough treatment, even-handed and crisply written. Highly recommended.” —Timothy E. Anna, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Manitoba

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Timothy J. Henderson

  • Timothy J. Henderson is a professor of history at Auburn University, Montgomery, and the author of several books on Mexican history, including A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States (H&W, 2007).





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    The Mexican Wars for Independence

    Timothy J. Henderson