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Review: ‘Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico’

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Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico
M. M. McAllen, moderated by David Martin Davies
10am, Story Room, Central Library
 
Local historian M. M. McAllen brings to life a little-known pocket of French influence on Mexican history in Maximilian and Carlota. Despite Spain’s almost unilateral impact on Mexico, it was not the only European power to step into Mexican affairs. In the mid-1800s, noting both chaos and distraction in a United States preoccupied with the Civil War, Napoleon III makes a bid to destroy Benito Juarez’s emerging democratic government and replace it with an “enlightened” monarchy of European values. He recruits the young and idealistic Maximilian von Hapsburg, second son of the Austrian royal family, as the new Emperor of Mexico. Maximilian and his wife, the Belgian princess Carlota, are eventually persuaded to take up this throne, never knowing that they arrive on the brink of the modern Mexico, a country determined to throw off all foreign influence for good. McAllen’s work details the fascinating cross section of political, religious, intellectual and economic allies and enemies that surround their brief and tragic reign. Meticulously researched and filled with colorful narrative, Maximilian and Carlota is an absorbing read for both amateur historians and students of the human condition. Released by Trinity University Press on the 150th anniversary of Maximilian’s arrival, the book is a timely, exciting new perspective on Mexican history.

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