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French Intervention in Mexico
United States - Mexican Articles
The French Intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
by Timothy Neeno, M.A.

Beginning in 1862, while the United States was paralyzed by Civil War, the French under Napoleon III tried to create an empire in Mexico under a puppet ruler, the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Over the next five years of war some 300,000 Mexicans died, and French ambitions were dealt a bruising blow. How had this conflict come about, and how did a weakened, divided nation defeat one of the most powerful empires in the world? From 1521, when an army of conquistadors under Hernán Cortéz marched into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, until 1821, Mexico was under the harsh rule of Spain. For three hundred years the Spaniards kept tight control of Mexico, limiting her trade to Spain alone and preventing any attempts at self government. After years of unrest and rebellion, the Spanish left Mexico, leaving a land in turmoil. Between 1821 and 1848 Mexico was in a near constant state of upheaval, in which she lost half her national territory to the expanding United States. In the long period of strife before and after independence, three groups grew in wealth, power and influence: the army, rich landowners, and the Church. The Catholic Church alone controlled nearly one half the taxable land in Mexico, while the owners of the great haciendas reduced many ostensibly free smallholders to debt peonage. At the same time the central government declined in authority and prestige. Of a population of nine million people, some five million were Native Americans, with little or nor rights, and three million others were mestizos, people of mixed European and Native American blood, leaving a ruling class of one million European descended Whites.
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Recommended Reading

Mr. Polk's Army: The American Military Experience in the Mexican War

The Mexican War

So Far from God: The U.S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848
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