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Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico The <I>Agraristas</I> and <I>Cristeros</I> of Michoacan by Jennie Purnell

Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico The Agraristas and Cristeros of Michoacan


Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico The Agraristas and Cristeros of Michoacan by Jennie Purnell

In Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico Jennie Purnell reconsiders peasant partisanship in the cristiada of 1926-29, one episode in the broader Mexican Revolution and the last major popular rebellion in Mexican history. While some scholars have argued that the Mexican Revolution was a people's rebellion that aimed to destroy the political and economic power of the elites to the benefit of the peasants, others claim that the Revolution was a struggle between elites that left little room for popular participation. Neither approach, however, explains why thousands of peasants sided with the Church against the state and its program of agrarian reform-reform that was presumably in the best interest of the peasants. Nor do they explain why so many peasants who considered themselves devout Catholics took up arms against the Church. Rather than viewing the cristeros (supporters of the Church) as victims of false consciousness or as religious fanatics, as others have done, Purnell shows that their motivations-as well as the motivations of the agraristas (supporters of the revolutionary state)-stem from local political conflicts that began decades, and sometimes centuries, before the Revolution. Drawing on rich but underutilized correspondence between peasants and state officials written over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Purnell shows how these conflicts shaped the relationships between property rights, religious practice, and political authority in the center-west region of Mexico and provides a nuanced understanding of the stakes and interests involved in subsequent conflicts over Mexican anticlericalism and agrarian reform in the 1920s.


Purnell has produced an analysis that is new and helpful not only to our understanding popular agency in the Revolution but for writing history from below-especially the history of state formation as a contested, social phenomenon.-Mary Kay Vaughan, University of Illinois at Chicago An exceptionally important book. Purnell brings sweeping innovations to the study of the Mexican revolution, the cristero revolt, and other early-twentieth-century developments. -John Tutino, Georgetown University

About the Author

Jennie Purnell is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st June 1999


Jennie Purnell

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Duke University Press


288 pages


History of the Americas
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000
Revolutionary groups & movements
Revolutions, uprisings, rebellions



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