Latin America Since Independence [CRN 77154]

Discipline: History
Instructor: Howkins
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1640
End: 1800
Field Work: Day 1 - Tuesday, 22 November | November 22, 2016 | Peru
Prerequisites: Three (3) history credits credits AND completion of 45 credits Download Syllabus

This class will study the history of Modern Latin America from the wars of independence at the beginning of the nineteenth century through to the present.  We will focus on the history of five countries: Brazil, Cuba, Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.  By studying these countries in detail, students will develop an understanding of the great diversity of Latin American history, at the same time as getting a sense of broad regional trends. A major focus throughout the course will be on the interaction of ideas, politics, and the environment across the region and beoynd.  How have Latin Americans defined themselves and how have others defined them?  Why have contests between imperialism, nationalism, and internationalism proved so enduring?  In what ways have the material realities of the region helped to shape the history of Latin America since the beginning of the nineteenth century?  In addressing these questions the course will engage with numerous other important themes including race, indigenous peoples, gender, economics, and culture in its broadest sense.

The course will be divided into three sections.  In the first section, visits to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will provide opportunities for thinking about the foundations of modern Latin American history.  During the Atlantic crossing, the second section of the class will examine the history of Latin American independence and nation building in the nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the history of Brazil.  Visits to Cuba, Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica during the section three of the class will give students a first hand experience of the recent histories of these countries, and encourage connections to be made with the themes studied in the first two parts of the class.  Taken together, the class will provide numerous opportunities for making comparisons among different countries in Latin American, and demonstrate the global interconnectedness of the history of the region as a whole.


The overall aim of the course is to encourage students to think historically about Latin America.  Students will learn how to use primary and secondary sources to construct and support original historical arguments.  By the end of the course, students will be able to analyze the major themes in the modern history of Latin America, and place them in a wider context.  They will also have learned how regional and national perspectives shape the way we write about history, not only in Latin America, but also more broadly.

Field Work

Country: Peru
Day: 1 - Tuesday, 22 November
Date: November 22, 2016

The field class gives students an opportunity to identify overlapping themes and topics from the course in the contemporary Latin American city of Lima.  Utilizing the concept of the palimpsest – medieval manuscripts that have been written over several times – we will explore the way that modern Latin American culture builds upon and writes over what came before.  Visiting a colonial monastery, for example, offers an opportunity to think about the Catholic and Spanish roots of modern Latin America, but the monastery may be functioning as a museum to a largely secular nation state, and be surrounded by market stalls selling imported DVDs.  The field class will visit at least one museum, but we will also look for opportunities to meet with local academics and public officials to discuss their understanding of contemporary issues and how these interact with the region’s history. Learning objectives:

  1. Analyze how Lima’s past continues to shape the present, with a particular emphasis on the “foundations” of Latin American history.
  2. Summarize how and why Peruvian history is presented in the “public history” we experience.
  3. Articulate the strengths and weaknesses of different types of historical sources (e.g. written texts vs. material experience).