The Grammar of Civil War


The Grammar of Civil War

A Mexican Case Study, 1857–61

Will Fowler

332 pages
11 photographs, 4 maps, 3 tables, index


July 2022


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

July 2022


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

July 2022


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Unlike wars between nations, wherein the population generally comes together to defend its borders and is united by a common national goal, civil wars tear countries apart, divide families, and turn neighbors against each other. Civil wars are a form of self-harm in which a country’s people seek redemption through self-destruction, punishing or severing those parts that are seen to have made the nation ill. And yet civil wars—with their characteristically appalling violence—remain chillingly common, defying the notion that they are somehow an aberration.

In The Grammar of Civil War Will Fowler examines the origin, process, and outcome of civil war. Using the Mexican Civil War of 1857–61 (or the War of the Reform, the political and military conflict that erupted between the competing liberal and conservative visions of Mexico’s future), Fowler seeks to understand how civil wars come about and, when they do, how they unfold and why. By outlining the grammatical principles that underpin a new framework for the study of civil war, Fowler stresses what is essential for one to take place and explains how, once it has erupted, it can be expected to develop and end, according to the syntax, morphology, and meanings that characterize and help understand the grammar of civil war generally.

Author Bio

Will Fowler is a professor of Latin American studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and an international member of the Mexican Academy of History. His books include Independent Mexico: The Pronunciamiento in the Age of Santa Anna, 1821–1858 (Nebraska, 2016), Santa Anna of Mexico (Bison Books, 2007), and Tornel and Santa Anna: The Writer and the Caudillo, Mexico, 1795–1853, among others.


"The Grammar of Civil War will certainly interest scholars of nineteenth-century Mexico; and its clarity and concision recommend it for both undergraduate and graduate classrooms in history and related fields, such as political science. . . . [The Grammar of Civil War is] a significant contribution to our understanding of a highly complex time and place."—Brian Stauffer, H-LatAm

“Deeply researched, well thought out, and exceptionally sophisticated theoretically. . . . This much-needed, provocative monograph will give readers a better understanding of nineteenth-century Mexico and provide them with a useful road map and insights for approaching the very complex problem of civil war.”—Erika Pani, professor at the Center for Historical Studies at El Colegio de México

“A major contribution to the field of Mexican history. The archival material is deep and varied. The breadth of secondary sources utilized, commented upon in the notes, or simply cited is truly impressive and alone would make consulting the book worthwhile for any scholar or dedicated reader interested in the climactic period of civil conflict in Mexico.”—Eric Van Young, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, San Diego

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. A New Framework for the Study of Civil War
2. The Mexican Civil War of 1857–61: An Overview
3. The Grammar of Origin in Context: The Causes of the 1857–61 Mexican Civil War
4. The Grammar of Process in Context: Mexico’s Descent into Hell, 1857–61
5. The Grammar of Outcome in Context: The Resolution and Memory of the 1861 Liberal Victory
Conclusion: The Grammar of Civil War

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