The Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940

Alan Knight and Jaime Rodriguez

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
The Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940

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The Mexican Revolution, as an armed movement, began in 1910; though opinions differ, it is safe to conclude that by around 1940 the revolution, as a dynamic historical process and a program of radical reform, was more or less over. The thirty-year span of the revolution can be neatly and usefully divided into the decade of armed revolution (1910–1920), followed by two decades of “institutional” revolution (1920–1940) as the new regime consolidated, introducing political and socioeconomic reforms. At the outset, the rebels overthrew first Díaz (in 1910–1911) and then President Huerta 1913–1914, who had attempted, unsuccessfully, a militarist restoration of the old regime. After 1914 the victorious revolutionaries fought among themselves, with the Carrancistas finally triumphing over the Villistas and Zapatistas, thanks in large part to the military skill of Alvaro Obregón. The last successful insurrection of the revolutionary decade, in 1920, brought Obregón to power and inaugurated the increasingly stable regime of the “Sonoran dynasty”: a group of leaders from the northwestern state of Sonora who, as progressive, populist, businesslike, centralizing, anticlerical state-builders, set their stamp on the new order (Plutarco Elías Calles, president 1924–1928, and “jefe máximo,” 1928–1934, being the chief exemplar). The decade of the 1920s thus possesses a degree of politico-economic unity. In 1930 the impact of the Great Depression prompted a rethink of policy and a lurch to the political left, typified by the radical administration of Lázaro Cárdenas 1934–1940, when socioeconomic reform—land distribution, support for organized labor, and a measure of economic nationalism (notably the expropriation of the Anglo-American oil companies in 1938)—took priority over Sonoran/Callista “jacobinism.” By the late 1930s, however, the revolution was losing its impetus: the remaining revolutionary generation was aging, or shifting to the right; conservative forces were reasserting themselves in Mexican society. And the international context favored détente with the United States, which the Cold War accelerated.

Article.  15329 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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