Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date



One of the fundamental characteristics of the great revolutions which have occurred from time to time in Western society is the period of reaction and return to normality known as the Thermidor. No nation has been able to maintain a revolution indefinitely. This paper deals with the Thermidorian reaction as it has developed in Mexico since the late 1930’s.

Students of the nature of revolution have discerned certain uniformities in the great upheavals of Western history. The object of this paper is to compare those uniformities as they relate to the Thermidorian reaction with the course which the Mexical Revolution has followed in an attempt to determine how closely the Mexican situation corresponds to the “classical” pattern which the uniformities indicate.

The classical pattern will first be sketched. Then the Mexican Thermidor will be examined, first with respect to its conformities with the classical pattern, then from the standpoint of discrepancies between the Mexican reality and the model Thermidor. An attempt will be made to show that, for the most part, Mexico’s Thermidor is a repetition of the pattern Established by the classical Thermidorian reactions. It will further be attempted to show that where the Mexican Thermidor deviates from the classical model, such deviation is usually a continuation· of a non-uniformity with respect to earlier phases of the Revolution, or may be readily explained by special Mexican circumstances.

The pioneering study of the structure of revolution is Lyford P. Eduards, The Natural History of Revolution. Any analysis ofthe uniformities of the classical Thermidors must draw heavily on Edwards’ observations. Craine Brinton's brilliant The Anatomy of Revolution bases its generalizations solely on the great English, American, French, and Russian revolutions and does not draw on the early Christian and later Protestant movements, as does Edwards' analysis. Further, Brinton would appear to be greatly indebted to Edwards for his development of the Thermidorian period. Nevertheless, Brinton's work, like that of his predecessor, is indispensable in the study of the uniformities suggested by the classical revolutions.

It is interesting to note that, perhaps because he was concerned either with the current political developments or with theorizing about the ideal revolution of the future, Karl Marx, whose name has become closely associated with the study of revolution, has contributed relatively little which is of use in studying the development of the Thermidor. Little more than an occasional observation, brilliant in its insight, may be cleaned from his writings. The Marxist whose observations on the Thermidorian reaction would appear to have the most value is Leon Trotsky. Although he was, like all Marxists, a "fore thinker” concerned with the future, Trotsky had an opportunity to observe the development of the Thermidorian period in a revolution which he helped initiate. Undoubtedly his exile allowed him to observe and comment upon the Russian Thermidor somewhat more objectively than he could have as an official of the Russian government.

The thinking of Mexicans and Mexicanists with regard to the Thermidorian period in that country will be discussed in Chapter II. It will then be possible to proceed to the comparison of theMexican situation with the classical model.



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Edwin Lieuwen

Second Committee Member


Third Committee Member

Troy Smith Floyd