Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Robert Ferry

Second Advisor

John Willis

Third Advisor

David Gross

Fourth Advisor

Robert Buffiington

Fifth Advisor

Mithi Mukherjee


The object of this study is national histories written by Mexican liberals in the second half of the nineteenth century, which are treated as a complex set of historical and narrative relations between liberalism, nationalism and the emergence of history as a rigorous discipline in Mexico. The figures treated in the study include José Fernando Ramírez (1804-1871), Guillermo Prieto (1818-1897), Manuel Payno (1820-1894), José María Vigil (1829-1909), Ignacio Manuel Altamirano (1834-1893), Alfredo Chavero (1841-1906), and Justo Sierra (1848-1912). The general thesis is that the emergence of Mexican history as an official discipline is the product of nineteenth-century political and ideological struggles among liberal intellectuals occupying disparate factions vying for state power. It argues that the disciplinization of Mexican history, as a scientific practice, is synonymous with the narrative construction of a privileged historical subject and protagonist: the Nation. Central to the argument of the thesis is that the achievement of an official state narrative of the nation constituted an act of de-politicization that effectively erased the intelligibility of the political struggles within Mexican liberalism. As a result of the success of this process of de-politicization, it has become difficult to understand the historical dynamics of nineteenth century Mexican liberalism and the nature of political struggles within and among competing liberal visions. This study argues that examining and critically engaging with a set of historical narratives and ideas about history by these prominent Mexican liberals provides a conducting thread to a reconsideration of Mexican liberalism and a more dynamic and nuanced understanding of its history, one that might contribute to a re-politicizing of the nineteenth century. This restoration of political dynamics allows us to see Mexican history as composed of a dispersal or multiplicity of various competing factions and visions that cannot be contained within a representational space defined by the binary of modernity and tradition.