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The Life and Times of Pancho Villa Paperback – October 1, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The historical figure known as Pancho Villa, hero of the Mexican Revolution, is shrouded in considerable mystery. His enemies presented him as a bandit and murderer, one who thought nothing of slaughtering innocent civilians and looting their villages. His followers considered him to be something of a Robin Hood forced to take action against the government only after stoically enduring its oppression for years. And hagiographers have assigned to Villa an important role in shaping the Mexican Revolution--an uprising that he joined somewhat late. That he was a bandit Villa never denied, but he protested being called a murderer: he killed only when attacked or betrayed, he said. Elements of many other stories made their way into American government reports, however, and went on to color the historical record. (That government, under the administration of Woodrow Wilson, took a considerable interest in Villa after he led an armed raid on the little New Mexico town of Columbus, making off with weapons and supplies.) University of Chicago historian Friedrich Katz carefully separates what can be reliably said about Villa's life from the tidbits of legend and celebration, and the extensive picture of Villa that he gives us (his book weighs in at nearly 1,000 pages) is no less interesting for all his debunking. Students of Mexican history will find much of value in Katz's researches. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

What this immense biography paradoxically proves is that it takes a major figure of major accomplishment to sustain a narrative of such length. The legendary Pancho Villa could barely sustain such tonnage; the real one?a slippery, semi-literate, largely nonpolitical outlaw whose opportunities on the national stage were inglorious and brief?can't. Katz, a University of Chicago professor of Latin American history and author of The Secret War in Mexico, has extracted every milligram of fact to weigh against the legendary life. Villa emerges as one thuggish upstart among many, who happened to enter American consciousness by invading a sliver (Columbus, N.Mex.) of the lower 48?the only time that had happened since the War of 1812?and afforded Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing the opportunity for an inconsequential but romanticized "Punitive Expedition." Although a charismatic leader, Villa did not make much of his (brief) control of revolutionary Chihuahua, and, in fact, the scourge of the landowner class ended his life as a hacendado. Bought off with someone else's confiscated land in 1920, he lived on this once grand estate of 163,000 acres until assassins got him in 1923 at the age of 45. Having deflated the legendary Villa, this description of the sleazy, sanguinary Mexico of pillagers and predators seems an extremely long footnote to history. 20 illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1004 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804730466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804730464
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The book reads like a novel -- I couldn't put it down.
Horchata
This volume accomplishes a rare feat in current historical scholarship---an eminently readable book which provides an unparalleled scholarly contribution.
Gonzalo Zeballos
This book is a must if you want to learn more about the Mexican Revolution.
Ernesto Valdez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on September 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Probably, the most important thing about this book is the fact that, though its subject is one of the most misunderstood characters of world history, it rests on an extremely rigorous research. Prof. Katz, one of the most serious and best historians you can read, and a specialist in Mexico, sought and found every available source of information. His history is as objective as it could be. But this is much more than just a biography of Pancho Villa; it is a history of the Mexican Revolution that develops around Villa and his movement. Besides, the life of Villa is more impressive, exciting and interesting than many, many fictional characters, even when the historian puts the legends aside and stays within the boundaries of solid data. It is really a pity that most people have an idea of Villa which comes from easy novels (like "The friends of Pancho Villa"). These novels may be good or bad, but most of the time they are pure fantasy. For example, most of them paint Villa as a bandit who led a disorderly band of killers. Well, surprise! Villa, who certainly had a past as an outlaw, managed to organize the most formidable war machine of the Revolution. During the 1910-1911, and 1913-1915 campaigns, his army was the best in terms of logistics, organization, discipline, morale, and strategy (until Villa made serious mistakes and Obregon defeated him). And more surprises: of all the revolutionary armies, Villa's was the most disciplined in terms of their behavior. Villa strongly prohibited and punished vandalism, rapes, destruction and raids. This is not to say they were a band of angels, but their cruelty and the devastation they created must be put in context. Carranza's army was much more terrible, and Carranza was no bandit, but a wealthy landowner.Read more ›
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "thegreatjorge" on October 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Life and Times of Pancho Villa" is the most complete source for information regarding this internationally recognized Mexican warrior. Katz, unlike other authors, gives a complete biography of the man, his myths and his legacy; as well as the geopolitical background corresponding to the periods of Villa's life. Both as a historian and a mexican, I feel that this is the one piece of literature that is completely indispensable for anyone that wants to know what happened during the so-called "mexican revolution" at the beginnings of the century and how this situation fits in with the rest of the world at this time. (i.e. The first World War)
Quite simply, I feel that this comprehensive book is definitely worth a deep read, yet it also satisfies those curious people who are in for a quick browse.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "wcarpenter2" on May 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
I recently finished Katz'z book. Without sounding as if I am simply "gushing" with enthusiasm, it is not an easy task to accurately express the positive attitude I have about this book. Thus, in an attempt to be somewhat objective, I'll try to focus more on the comparative aspect of the work. Katz manages to give the reader a sense of perspective not only of the man Pancho Villa--and northern Mexico--he also contrasts Villa with a number of other Mexican revolutionaries of the times, most notably Emiliano Zapata. Yet, Katz does much more, he paints an expressive and incisive overall portrait of the Mexican Revolution (which was not just one event, it was a series of "revolutions"); he provides a comparative perspective for evalutating both the similarities and the uniqueness of Villa and the Mexican Revolution, in relation to to other Latin American AND other twentieth century revolutionary movements, and leaders. Truly the book is an awesome achievement. Katz provides a wealth of facts but never loses the overall perspective, it all fits together. He provides both "top-down" and "bottom-up" aspects of Villa, his associates, and the times--and the Mexico--in which they lived. Additionally, Katz always manages to maintain his course; he is objective and dispassionate in his analysis and interpretations of individual events and personalites--but he is not shy about offering his own (well-considered) opinions. The book provides a wealth of newly discovered information. Finally, (as if what I have already written is not enough!) the book is a tribute to a wonderfully insightful scholar; behind the book is obviously an intelligent (very intelligent) person; it is a masterpiece of historical craftsmanship, produced by an excellent writer.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ray Acosta on June 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a massive book, and not for light reading. Still, I think it is the best book on the Revolutionary period. If you are interested in this subject, this should not be the first book you pick up, there is just too much information. However, after you've read one or two other books, and have a good grounding, this is the book that wraps it up. There is nothing left out.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gonzalo Zeballos on March 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Life and Times of Pancho Villa is truly a masterpiece of historical biography. This volume accomplishes a rare feat in current historical scholarship---an eminently readable book which provides an unparalleled scholarly contribution. Prof Katz, while portraying General Villa's critical role in Mexican history, weaves into his text a colorful depiction Villa's indomitable character. A pleasure to read, this book will remain a favorite of both scholars and fans of Mexican history for many years to come.
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