In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Pre-Revolutionary Mexican Armed Forces: 1810–1910

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Operational Histories
  • Anthologies
  • Specialist Journals
  • Independence
  • Indigenous Wars (Northern)
  • US-Mexican War
  • Caste War
  • Wars of Reform
  • French Intervention
  • Uprisings and Rebellions and Pronunciamientos
  • Banditry
  • Border Issues
  • Memoirs, Art, Literature
  • Military Training and Education
  • Culture, Lore, Exhibition
  • Military in Politics
  • Foreign Views of the Mexican Military
  • Recruitment and Citizenship and National Guards
  • Navy
  • Generals
  • Gender, Women, and New Military History Approaches

Military History Pre-Revolutionary Mexican Armed Forces: 1810–1910
Stephen Neufeld
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 June 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0253


In the turbulent 19th century, bookended by revolutions in 1810 and 1910, Mexicans experienced myriad civil wars, foreign invasions, indigenous rebellions, barracks mutinies, murky conflicts, and precious little peace. These coincided with and influenced the formation of nationhood and set historical trajectories into the next century. The historiography naturally has focused on the origins of the new society and republic, with the army as a key player. Compared to other contexts, in Mexico the army featured prominently in politics, but also appears in writings on the armed forces as an institution and in the histories of the devastating wars against foreign invaders and occupiers. Six larger strains organize these works and their chief concerns including: political involvements, local wars, foreign assaults, the military itself, soldiers and family, and specific elements (e.g., the navy). Many histories have addressed the political role of the military in society, nationalism, populism, citizenship, and as political actors (providing presidents until the 1940s). The early history depended on military men and institutions as the republic took shape. The ideas around military service especially lay at the heart of how would-be citizens engaged with their new country. Expanding on this, armed conflicts at local levels plagued security and stability throughout the era. Whether mutinies, Indigenous rebellion, or civil wars, these fights highlighted differences in race and class, and the development of state formation. At times, they also saw full-out war against foreign invasions, which have their own separate literature (US-Mexico War, French Intervention). Outside the realm of incessant warfare, studies of the military itself have sought to explain the ways that soldiers and society experienced not just official campaigns, but the armed forces as an institution and in practice. This included military lore, recruitment, education, and rituals. It also included professionalizing the military and how the army spread literacy over time. Other works have explored important facets of the armed forces including the nascent navy and the biographies of officers and generals. A smaller set of more recent scholarship has also addressed the military in terms of gender, race, and class both in context of active campaigns and in peacetime functions and have focused on the human experience. In these histories, the subjectivity of soldiers, families, and the victims of war shine light on broader society and as means to better understand Mexico through military related themes.

General Overviews and Operational Histories

A number of works offer good overviews on politics, official narratives, and the military in society. These also include the best operational histories for the 19th-century armed forces. Cota Soto 1947, Fuentes 1983, and Gutiérrez Santos 1955 covered campaigns, organization, and institutional histories, with good reference materials in a range from primary sources to journalism. On the early era and nation building, Hernández Chávez 2012, Fowler 2012, DePalo 1997, and Tenenbaum 1992 worked through political interactions and the military foundations of the republic. As a matter of interest in how officials depicted the military, Prieto 1999 and Suárez Pichardo 1909 offer 19th-century visions of the armed forces, in works written for the armed forces.

  • Cota Soto, Guillermo. Historia militar de México. 3 vols. México: n.p., 1947.

    This older work focuses on official history of the army, its organization, and specific campaigns, but is somewhat light on analysis.

  • DePalo, William A. The Mexican National Army, 1822–1852. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997.

    Gives comprehensive coverage on the military, excellent on developments, traditional, organization, and arms.

  • Fowler, Will, ed. Malcontents, Rebels, and Pronunciados: The Politics of Insurrection in Nineteenth-Century Mexico. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012.

    Writes a well-executed study of the 1821–1876 period with a dozen essays, on military uprisings from the best authors in field.

  • Fuentes, Gloria. El Ejército mexicano. México: Grijalbo, 1983.

    A journalistic overview which interprets the army in politics during the 19th century to 20th century. Covers the rise of the army, the degree of its involvement in governing, and the first third of the book provides a general history.

  • Gutiérrez Santos, Daniel. Historia militar de México. 3 vols. México: Ateneo Press, 1955.

    Discusses the army and its history in the post–World War Two era, setting up official narratives for military historians.

  • Hernández Chávez, Alicia. Las fuerzas armadas mexicanas. Su función en el montaje de la República. México: El Colegio de México, 2012.

    Interprets the ways that the army helped in the construction of the nation; particularly strong on the army’s place in society.

  • Prieto, Guillermo. Lecciones de historia patria: Obras completas XXVIII. México: CONACULTA, 1999.

    Explores the army and its place in a primary source written during the 19th century. In this mostly anecdotal historical chronicle, the military only appears in limited ways.

  • Suárez Pichardo, Jorge. Hechos ilustres de la clase de tropa del Ejército mexicano. México: D. Hernández Mejía, 1909.

    Another primary source, in this case a troop textbook, this depicts myths and narratives for recruits as part of the barracks literacy project.

  • Tenenbaum, Barbara. “The Chicken and the Egg: Reflections on the Mexican Military, 1821–1846.” In Five Centuries of Mexican History: Papers of the VIII Conference of Mexican and North American Historians, San Diego, October 1990. Edited by Virginia Guedea and Jaime E. Rodríguez O, 355–370. México: Instituto Mora, 1992.

    Challenges the historiography with focused research and insight, adding some social elements, and largely institutional in approach.

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