Fall 2015 - HIST 209W D100

Latin America: the National Period (3)

Class Number: 5947

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2015: Mon, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 11, 2015
    Fri, 12:00–3:00 p.m.



A survey of Latin American history from Independence (1808-24) to the present: post-Independence political collapse and reconsolidation; Latin America in the world trade system and the changing conditions of economic dependency; nationalist reform (Mexico) and socialist revolution (Cuba), liberalism, populism, and the rise of modernizing military. Treatment by topics and broad historical period rather than country by country. Students who have taken IS 209 may not take HIST 209 for further credit. Writing/Breadth-Hum/Soc Sci.


Latin American History Since 1808: the Vanguard of Modernity

   In many ways, Latin America has been the laboratory where most modern ideas were first tested. Formal, direct colonial empire, as distinct from medieval vassalage and early modern plantations, was first tested with the creation of the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1522. When the first modern bureaucratic system was developed, it was for the offices of the Holy Inquisition in Lima and Mexico City. The very idea of race originates from the collision between the medieval Iberian idea of raza and efforts to create a system to comprehend and to rule the diverse indigenous people of the New World and the African slaves whose labour powered the conquest of the New World. Latin America’s place at the forefront of modernity did not end with independence. Soon, former colonies were the testing grounds for debt-leveraged neocolonial projects. Many experiments in creating new modernities failed, too, from the theocratic autarky of José Gaspar de Francia’s Paraguay, to the short-lived United Provinces of Central America, to the first liberal land privatization scheme under Mexico’s Benito Juárez.
   In the late nineteenth century, many of the key features of the US imperial project were tested first in Latin America, from the creation of the Central American “Banana Republic” system, to systems of military government and managed “regime change.” It was in the Hispanic Caribbean that the US acquired its first permanent “overseas territories” – de facto colonies in the Spanish-American War of 1898. And from the CIA-directed Guatemalan coup of 1953 to the Honduran military seizure of power in 2009, new means of exercising American power came first to Latin America. It should not surprise us, then, that Latin Americans have been equally innovative in their assertions of self-determination. From the Mexican Revolution’s nationalization and re-collectivization of land and oil to Castro’s socialist revolution in Cuba to Evo Morales’ recent formal decolonization of Bolivia, Latin Americans have been at the forefront of new strategies and measures to create alternatives to neocolonialism.
In the course of examining Latin American history, students will be asked to engage through a variety of perspectives such as race, gender, culture and economics. Emphasis will also be placed on primary source materials so that, as much as possible, the voices of Latin Americans can be heard, unmediated in their representation. Moving past the clichés of an unmodernised, underdeveloped Latin American and cartoonish images of fatigue-clad dictators and peasants toiling in the fields of oligarchs’ sprawling estates, this course will provide students with a grounding both in the major events of modern Latin American history and new tools to excavate that history themselves.
Course Structure
   This is a blended course, which means that while we will meet weekly in tutorial, much of the work you will do in this class will be in a web-based environment. Instead of traditional lectures, you will be expected to listen to the assigned podcasts, do the assigned readings, and complete other assignments each week prior to tutorial. You will only spend one hour per week in class, and do not need to register for a lecture time, only a tutorial time.


  • Attendance and Informed Participation 10%
  • Weekly Commentaries 20%
  • Peer Reviews 10%
  • Two Discussion Papers 40%
  • Final Exam 20%


HIST 209 is cross-listed with IS 209 and you may take this course under the HIST designation or the IS designation.



Alexander Dawson, Latin America Since Independence: A History with Primary Sources. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

Rigoberta Menchú (Author), Elisabeth Burgos-Debray (Editor), Ann Wright (Translator), I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (Second Edition) London: Verso, 2010.

Registrar Notes:

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