Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


The introductory chapter reviews the historiography of the 1862–67 French intervention in Mexico. It identifies the need to both Mexicanise and imperialise the event in order to better understand the motivations of those in France who launched it and those in Mexico who called for and supported it. The chapter addresses the problematic portrayal of Mexican conservatism and monarchism. France’s position as an imperial power is detailed. Colonial conquest and colonisation in Algeria is identified as an exception in French imperialism for the period 1815–70, which saw France deploy non-colonial means to spread its influence and increase its commerce across the globe. The concept of informal empire, a theory which has never been applied to French imperialism in Latin America, is suggested as a useful analytical tool. The British model of informal empire is compared to that of the French, which relies more heavily on discourses, such as pan-Latinism, to demarcate French spheres of influence, than the British version of commercial and financial hegemony.

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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ScholarLondonUK

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