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Prof Ben Smith

Room: H338, third floor of the Humanities Building

Tel: 44 (0)24 76523422 (internal extension 23422)

Fax: 44 (0)24 76523437 (internal extension 23437)


Office hours: Tuesday 4pm-5pm and Friday 11-12 or by appointment.

Please use the following handy calendar to book a time.

Twitter: @benjamintsmith7


Academic Profile

  • Professor of Latin American History, University of Warwick (2019-present)
  • Reader of Latin American History, University of Warwick (2016-2019)
  • Associate Professor of Latin American History, University of Warwick (2013-2016)
  • Assistant/Associate Professor of Mexican History, Michigan State University (2005-2012)
  • PhD in History, Cambridge University (2006)



“People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth.” Roberto Bolaño, 2666

I have been writing about Mexico for over twenty years. As a historian of nineteenth and twentieth-century grassroots politics, I started my research in the archives, villages, churches, and markets of the predominantly indigenous state of Oaxaca. Since then I have branched out to write about about indigenous politics, Catholicism, conservatism, newspapers, journalism, censorship and civil society.

Now I tend to specialize on twentieth-century politics, the narcotics trade and crime. My most recent book, The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade was published by Ebury/Norton in 2021. If you want to know more about it, go to

I teach an introductory course on Latin American history, a 200-level course on Mexican history, and an interdisciplinary 400-level course on the drug trade in the Americas.

Outside teaching, I have a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbitt, I provide expert witness reports for Mexican refugees in the United Kingdom and the United States (see Rights in Exile) and I am honored and slightly surprised to be a member of the Noria: Mexico and Central America research program.



Pistoleros and Popular Movements: The Politics of State Formation in Postrevolutionary Oaxaca (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009) How the Mexican Revolution came to Mexico’s most diverse, indigenous state. And the politicians, peasants, village strongmen, and market women who shaped it.
The Roots of Conservatism in Mexico: Catholicism, Society, and Politics in the Mixteca Baja, 1750-1962 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2012). An ethnohistorical study of why peasants embraced the Catholic church and Mexico's national conservative parties.

(with Paul Gillingham) Dictablanda: Politics, Work, and Culture in Mexico, 1938–1968 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014). A collection of essays on the creation of the Mexican PRI state.

(With Wil Pansters and Peter Watt), Beyond the Drug War in Mexico: Human rights, the public sphere and justice (London, Routledge, 2017). Collected essays of political science, journalism and sociology on the effects of Mexico’s militarized drug war.

The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976: Stories from the Newsroom, Stories from the Street (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2018). The story of the explosion of Mexico’s newspaper industry, the state that tried to censor it, and the journalists and readers that refused to be muzzled.

Winner of the LASA Howard Cline Award

(with Paul Gillingham and Michael Lettieri) Journalism, Satire, and Censorship in Mexico, (Alburquerque: UNM Press, 2018). A collection of essays on the twentieth century Mexican censorship and journalism.

The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade (London/New York: Ebury/Norton, 2021). A myth-busting, 100-year history of the Mexican drug trade which how a once-peaceful industry became a violent behemoth

Academic Articles


Benjamin T. Smith and Wil G. Pansters, "U.S. Moral Panics, Mexican Politics, and the Borderlands Origins of the War on Drugs 1950-1962", Journal of Contemporary History 55.2 (2020), pp. 364-87.

Benjamin T. Smith, "Killing a Cabby: The Press, Civil Society, and Justice in 1950s Chihuahua", Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, (2020) 36 (1-2): 127–149.

Benjamin T. Smith, "Introduction", Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos (2020) 36 (1-2): 1–9.

Benjamin T. Smith, "Communal Work, Forced Labor, and Road Building in Mexico, 1920-1958", in David Nugent and Ben Fallaw, State Formation in the Liberal Era: Capitalisms and Claims of Citizenship in Mexico and Peru, (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2020), pp. 273-298


Romain Le Cour Grandmaison, Nathaniel Morris , Benjamin T. Smith, "The Last Harvest? From the US Fentanyl Boom to the Mexican Opium Crisis" Journal of Illicit Economies and Development (2019)

Benjamin T. Smith, "Of Saints and Demons: The Santa Muerte in Historical Perspective" in Wil G. Pansters (ed.), La Santa Muerte in Mexico History, Devotion, and Society (Albuquerque: UNM Press, 2019)

Benjamin T. Smith,"The Dialectics of Dope: Leopoldo Salazar Viniegra, the Myth of Marijuana, and Mexico’s State Drug Monopoly" in Susannah Wilson (ed.), Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances in History, Culture and Theory: Prohibitions and Psychoactive Substances (London: Taylor & Francis, 2019)

Benjamin T. Smith "Prefacio" in Juan Antonio Fernández Velázquez and Pedro Cazares Aboytes (coords), Actores, Prácticas y Discursos en la Construcción del Estado Mexicano: Siglo XIX y XX (Isumismo Latinoamericanos, 2019), pp. 9-14.

Benjamin T. Smith, "The Paradoxes of the Public Sphere: Journalism, Gender, and Corruption in Mexico, 1940-1970," Journal of Social History Volume 52, Issue 4, Summer 2019, pp. 1330–1354


Benjamin T. Smith, "The Year Mexico Stopped Laughing: The Crowd, Satire, and Censorship in Mexico City" in Paul Gillingham, Michael Lettieri, Benjamin T. Smith, (eds.), Journalism, Satire, and Censorship in Modern Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2018)

Paul Gillingham, Michael Lettieri, Benjamin T. Smith, "Introduction: Journalism, Satire and Censorship in Mexico" in Paul Gillingham, Michael Lettieri, Benjamin T. Smith, (eds.), Journalism, Satire, and Censorship in Modern Mexico (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2018)


Wil Pansters, Benjamin T. Smith, Peter Watt, "Introduction: Beyond the Drug War in Mexico" in WIl Pansters, Benjamin T. Smith, Peter Watt, (eds.) Beyond the Drug War in Mexico: Human rights, the public sphere and justice (London, Routledge, forthcoming 2017)

Benjamin T. Smith, “El espíritu de Dios… en los corazones de todos”: La resurgimiento de Catolicismo en la Mixteca Baja, 1867-1910" in Marta Eugenia Ugarte García and Matthew Butler, Pablo Serrano Alvarez (eds), México católico. Proyectos y trayectorias eclesiales, siglos XIX y XX (Pachuca: Collegio de Hidalgo, 2017), 201-35.


Benjamin T. Smith, "Drug Policies in Mexico, 1900-1980", Beatriz C.Labate, Clancy Cavnar, & Thiago Rodrigues, (eds.), Drug Policies and the Politics of Drugs in Latin America. (Cham: Switzerland, Springer International Publishing, 2016), pp. 33-53.


Benjamin T. Smith, "Building a state on the cheap: Taxation, Social Movements, and Politics" in Benjamin T. Smith and Paul Gillingham (eds.), Dictablanda: Politics, Work, and Culture in Mexico, 1938-1968 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)

Benjamin T. Smith and Paul Gillingham, "Introduction: The Paradoxes of Revolution" in in Benjamin T. Smith and Paul Gillingham (eds.), Dictablanda: Politics, Work, and Culture in Mexico, 1938-1968 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014)

Benjamin T. Smith, "Who Governed? Grassroots Politics in 1960s Mexico", Past & Present, (November 2014)

Benjamin T. Smith, "Rumbo a una cartografia de Cardenismo" in Tanalis Padilla (ed.), El campesinado y su persistencia en la actualidad mexicana (Mexico City: Conaculta, 2014)


Benjamin T. Smith, “Rewriting the Moral Economy: Agricultural Societies and Economic Change in Oaxaca’s Mixteca Baja, 1830-1910 “ in Matthew Butler and Antonio Escobar Ohmstede, (eds), Mexico in Transition: New Perspectives on Mexican Agrarian History, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries/ México y sus transiciones: reconsideraciones sobre la historia agraria mexicana, siglos XIX y XX, (University of Texas-CIESAS, 2013)

Benjamin T. Smith,"The Rise and Fall of Narcopopulism in Sinaloa, 1940-1980", Journal for the Study of Radicalism (Fall 2013), pp. 125-167.

Benjamin T. Smith and Gabriela Soto Laveaga, (eds,), Special issue of Endeavour on Medicine in Mexico (March 2013)

Benjamin T. Smith, “Towards a typology of popular responses to rural medicine in Mexico”, Endeavour, (March 2013)


Benjamin T. Smith, “Heliodoro Charis Castro and the soldiers of Juchitán: Indigenous Militarism, Local Rule and the Mexican State” in Ben Fallaw and Terry Rugeley (eds.), Forced Marches: Soldiers and military caciques in modern Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012)


Benjamin T. Smith, “El Señor del Perdón y los matacristos de Oaxaca: La Revolución desde el punto de vista de los católicos”, Desacatos, 28, (2010), pp. 61-76.

Benjamin T. Smith and Keith Aaron Van Oosterhout, “The Limits of Catholic Science and the Mexican Revolution”, Endeavour, 34.2 (2010), pp. 55-60.


Benjamin T. Smith, “Anticlericalism, Politics, and Freemasonry in Mexico, 1920–1940” The Americas, 65.4 (2009), pp. 559-588.


Benjamin T. Smith, “Inventing Tradition at Gunpoint: Caciquismo and Culture in the Región Mixe, Oaxaca, 1930- 1959”, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 27.2 (2008), pp. 215-234

Benjamin T. Smith, “”The Party of the Priest”: Local Religion in Huajuapam de León, 1920-1952” in Matthew Butler (ed.), Faith and Impiety in Revolutionary Mexico: God’s Revolution? (London: Palgrave, 2008), pp. 261-278.


Benjamin T. Smith, “Defending “Our Beautiful Freedom”: State Formation and Local Autonomy in Oaxaca, 1930- 1940”, Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, 37.1 (2007), pp. 125-53


Benjamin T. Smith, “The Politics of Anticlericalism and Resistance: The Diocese of Huajuapam 1900-1940”, Journal of Latin American Studies, 37.3 (2005), pp. 469-505


Benjamin T. Smith, “New lines of inquiry into the post-revolutionary state in Oaxaca (1934-1947)” in Carlos Sanchez Silva (ed.), Historia, sociedad y literatura de Oaxaca. Nuevos enfoques, (Mexico, IIHUABJO-IEEPO, 2004), pp. 67-98.

Benjamin T. Smith, “El suicidio de un diputado: La inestablidad del régimen pos-revolucionario”, Agenda Política, Periodismo de Investigación y Análisis, 1.2 (2004), pp. 3-9.

Policy Papers

Romain Le Couer Grandmaison, Nathanial Morris, and Benjamin T. Smith,No More Opium for the Masses. From the U.S. Fentanyl Boom to the Mexican Opium Crisis: Opportunities Amidst Violence? From the U.S. Fentanyl Boom to the Mexican Opium Crisis: Opportunities Amidst Violence? Noria Research, Mexico Institute, Justice for Mexico Center, February 2018


Aline Maria de Carvalho Pagotto, Interview with Benjamin T. Smith, in Historia e Cultura


New Books Network Interview, on The Dope, July 2021

Interview with Bob Mills on TalkRadio, 14 June 2021 (10.10 onwards)

Interview with Bill Padley on TalkRadio Europe, On The Dope, 9 June 2021

Interview with Mark Dolan on TalkRadio on the Mexican Drug Trade, On The Dope, 7 June 2021

Benjamín Smith presentó su libro “The Dope. The Real History of Mexican Drug Trade”, Radio Formula, 27 May 2021

“Why it's Impossible to Win the War on Drugs” Interview with Amichai Levy, 2021

UCL History Spot on La Dictablanda: Soft Authoritarianism in Mexico, 1938-1968, December 2014

Rethinking the Origins of the War on Drugs, LSE, February 2018

Interview with the New Book Network on The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940-1976: Stories from the Newsroom, Stories from the Street July 2020

Non-academic Articles/Interviews

Interview with Katie Jones, Insight Crime, 21 June 2021

“Existe la idea de que antes, el PRI controlaba todo y no existía la violencia, pero esto no es verdad” El Pais Interview, 26 May 2021

"Arresting Mexican Kingpin "el Chapo" hardly means the drug war is over" The Guardian

Mexico on the brink. Ayotzinapa and Peña Nieto. Dissent

The end of the Drug War or the Cartel of Cartels, Dissent Magazine and Truth Out

"Qué quiere la Sección 22 del SNTE-CNTE?” Nexos

"Legalizing marijuana is no easy fix for Mexico's drug problem", The Conservation

"Tragic Realism: The Rise of Mexican narcoliterature", The Conversation

Teachers, Education Reform and the Mexican Left, Dissent Magazine

What does El Chapo's Escape mean for the Mexican drug trade? Dissent Magazine

Violencia de estado, reforma educativa e izquierda, Letras Libres

1940: The Year Mexico Legalised Drugs, BBC History Extra and here

Cómo manipular a la prensa, Nexos

1940: The Year Mexico Legalised Drugs, Transform: Getting Drugs Under Control

El año en el que México (brevamente) legalizó las drogas, Animal Político

Fake News, Chinese Boxes, and the Mexican Art of Manipulating the Press, UNC Press Blog

Por Qué Por Qué? UNC Press Blog