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French Imperial Projects in Mexico, 1820–1867

Shawcross, Edward; (2016) French Imperial Projects in Mexico, 1820–1867. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The standard narrative of nineteenth-century imperialism in Latin America is one of US expansion and British informal influence. However, it was France, not Britain, which made the most concerted effort to counter US power through Louis-Napoléon’s creation of an empire in Mexico under the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian. Despite its significance to French and Mexican history, this intervention is invariably described as an “illusion”, an “adventure” or a “mirage”. This thesis answers the question why some Mexicans believed that the survival of the nation itself depended upon French intervention, and why France sought to impose an informal-imperial model on Mexico. It does so by analysing the full context of Franco-Mexican relations from 1820 onwards: French and Mexican ideas about monarchy in Latin America; responses to US expansion and the development of anti-Americanism and pan-Latinism; the consolidation of Mexican conservatism and the French Second Empire’s influence as a political paradigm; and, finally, the collaboration of some Mexican elites with French imperialism. This thesis draws upon French, Mexican, British and US sources, especially diplomatic dispatches, periodicals and published works. The approach challenges the separation between intellectual history and international history. By going beyond the conventional history of ideas focus on ‘canonical’ texts, it seeks to identify the extent to which currents of thought normally considered to be the preserve of well-known intellectuals and politicians were part of a wider political culture that influenced French policy in Mexico, and shaped the contours of Mexican political discourse. An important dimension of the relationship between Mexico and France was the transatlantic and transnational context in which it developed, where competing conceptions of Mexico and France as nations, the role of Europe and the United States in the Americas and the idea of Latin America itself were challenged and debated.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: French Imperial Projects in Mexico, 1820–1867
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Informal empire, Imperialism, France, Mexico, Second Empire
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1476908
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