Here is a well-researched, ably written, consistently interesting, and mercifully short book that deserves reading. Edward Shawcross’s Last Emperor of Mexico skillfully links developments in Mexico with the career of his difficult but noble protagonist, a man who did not understand the task thrust upon him. Though possibly latent in any presidential system, monarchy was more explicitly a threat to the nascent republics of the New World, and particularly so in Mexico, though Haiti, too, had imperial moments from 1804 to 1806 and 1849 to 1859, and Brazil did not become a republic until after its empire came to an end in 1889.

In 1822, Augustín de Iturbide, an army officer who had played a key role in the fight for Mexican independence, declared himself Emperor Augustin


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