Today’s “Iron River of Guns” flowing from the United States into Mexico has a long backstory. From Mexico’s independence movement in the early nineteenth century through its early twentieth-century revolution, the international arms trade in general and arms transfers from the U.S. in particular have often confounded the project of national governance. The vagaries of global arms markets, the dangers of arming the state on credit, the difficulties of maintaining government arsenals, and the misfortune of sharing land borders with major arms producers all shaped Mexico’s first independent century in surprising and neglected ways. This history offers a fresh perspective on the contemporary crisis and the policy debate surrounding it.

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