Revolution in Development

About the book

Revolution in Development Book 2021 UC Press Revolution in Development: Mexico and the Governance of the Global Economy uncovers the surprising influence of postrevolutionary Mexico on the twentieth century’s most important international economic institutions. Drawing on extensive archival research in Mexico, the United States, and Great Britain, Christy Thornton meticulously traces how Mexican officials repeatedly rallied Third World leaders to campaign for representation in global organizations and redistribution through multilateral institutions. By decentering the United States and Europe in the history of global economic governance, Revolution in Development shows how Mexican economists, diplomats, and politicians fought for more than five decades to reform the rules and institutions of the global capitalist economy. In so doing, the book demonstrates, Mexican officials shaped not only their own domestic economic prospects but also the contours of the project of international development itself.

The cover image is by Santos Balmorí, and appeared on the cover of the March 1945 issue of Futuro magazine. It appears courtesy of the Centro Lombardo Toledano.

Revolution in Development is available directly from UC Press, and from all major booksellers. Purchase here:

University of California Press | |


Published reviews:

H-Diplo Roundtable XXII-49, with an introduction by Eric Helleiner and reviews by Johanna Bockman, Susan Gauss, Jamie Martin, and Eric Zolov, July 12, 2021. Full PDF available here.

Economic History Review, by David Escamilla-Guerrero, Volume 74, Issue 3, (August 2021): 864-865.


“Christy Thornton has made a landmark contribution. Focusing on the pivotal case of Mexico and penetrating the condescending discourse of Northern policymakers and diplomats, she compellingly reads the construction of the twentieth century’s great international governing institutions—the League of Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, the United Nations—from the outside in, through the optic of the Global South. Her clear-eyed, painstakingly researched analysis of Mexico’s ‘revolution in development’ establishes the nation’s critical constitutive role in the making of US global hegemony, while reconfiguring our understanding of Mexican foreign policy and the ideology and practice of the postrevolutionary state.”
––Gil Joseph, Farnam Professor of History and International Studies, Yale University

“In this book, Christy Thornton guides us through the era when Mexico was assuming an active role in struggles to change the institutional and economic world order per se as a way to advance its nationalist development agenda. She masterfully brings alive the actors and pains and gains of Mexico’s quest to transform key multilateral institutions for a more just system and to remove constraints on its own development process. Academics, students, and policy makers, especially in Mexico, will benefit enormously from this splendidly written, extremely well-documented contribution to the knowledge of Mexican economic history, with an international political economy and institutional building perspective.”
––Juan Carlos Moreno-Brid, coauthor of Development and Growth in the Mexican Economy: A Historical Perspective 

“Many scholars have asked what difference the Mexican Revolution made, but those who have addressed this question typically have framed it in strictly domestic terms. Yet, as Christy Thornton brilliantly demonstrates in this pathbreaking study, Mexican revolutionary nationalism manifested itself at the international level, from World War I on, in startling and significant ways. Revolution in Development promises to radically revise our understanding of the formation of the international economic order and to enable us to appreciate the role that Mexico and its Latin American allies played in the global debates about economic development.”
––Barbara Weinstein, author of The Color of Modernity: São Paulo and the Making of Race and Nation in Brazil

“This brilliant study posits Mexico as a subject rather than an object of global economic policy. Most history of capitalism is written through the lens of the Global North, and this book offers a crucial corrective, showing the Mexican postrevolutionary government as a critical advocate for the Global South.”
––Jürgen Buchenau, Professor of History and Latin American Studies, UNC Charlotte

Table of Contents

Introduction: How Could Mexico Matter?
1. Recognition and Representation: The Mexican Revolution and Multilateral Governance
2. A New Legal and Philosophic Conception of Credit: Redefining Debt in the 1930s
3. A Solidarity of Interests: Mexico and the Inter-American Bank
4. Voice and Vote: Mexico’s Postwar Vision at Bretton Woods
5. Within Limits of Justice: The Economic Charter for the Americas and Its Critics
6. Organizing the Terms of Trade: Mexico and the International Trade Organization
7. The Price of Success: Navigating the New Development Order during the Mexican Miracle
8. A Mexican International Economic Order? The Echeverría Synthesis
Conclusion: Hegemony and Reaction: The United States in Opposition


If you’re teaching the book and you’d like to schedule a visit to your course, or plan a lecture or seminar, use the contact page.

  • February 19, 2021, Book Launch: Mexico’s Past, Present, and Alternative Futures, hosted by UC Press, with Maurice Rafael Magaña (U Arizona) and Shane Dillingham (Albright College)
  • February 24, 2021, Southern Methodist University Stanton Sharpe Lecture Series Clements Department of History
  • February 26, 2021, Colegio de México/CIDE International History Seminar, with Vanni Pettinà (Colmex) and Daniel Kent Carrasco (CIDE)
  • February 26, 2021, Dartmouth College Department of History Symposium, featuring Pamela Voekel (Dartmouth), Robert Alegre (University of New England), Sandra Mendiola Garcia (University of North Texas), Blanca Nuñez (UC Riverside), and Jody Pavilack (University of Montana)
  • March 10, 2021, Johns Hopkins University Book release sponsored by the Department of Sociology and Latin America in a Globalizing World initiative, featuring Leslie Salzinger (UC Berkeley) and Jeremy Adelman (Princeton), moderated by Rina Agarwala (Johns Hopkins)
  •  April 13, 2021, Utrecht University, Global and Imperial Relations Research Group, with Eline van Ommen, 10am EDT
  • April 16, 2021, University of Connecticut, Foreign Policy Lecture Series, co-organized with El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies, 5pm EDT
  • April 27, 2021, University of Chicago, Katz Center for Mexican Studies Seminar, 2pm EDT

Interviews & Media Coverage