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Latin America During the National Period (HIST 140)

"Poor people inhabit rich lands"
- E. Bradford Burns

Spring 2005, Truman State University
MC209, TR 1:30-2:50
Office: KB 225A

Marc Becker
Office Hours: W 1:30-3:30
Phone: x6036


This course surveys the history of Latin America from the arrival of the first peoples on the American continents to the present. We will examine a variety of issues including economics, democracy, racism, class structures, gender, ethnicity, human rights, globalization, and popular movements. Rather than analyzing Latin America from a North American point of view, we will examine how Latin Americans view themselves and how their culture, economics, and politics have developed in different directions than the United States and Europe.

This course fulfills the History mode of inquiry in the Liberal Studies Program. In this mode, students will study a broad topic or major geographic area over an extended period of time and will demonstrate competence in one or more of the following areas, which characterize the work of historians:

  1. thinking in terms of causation, change over time, contingency, context, and chronological frameworks;
  2. the content and methodologies of humanistic and social-scientific disciplines to study and interpret the past;
  3. analyzing the interplay between choices individuals have made and developments societies have undergone; and
  4. understanding the social and aesthetic richness of different cultures.


You are expected and required to attend every class session, and you are responsible for the material covered in the lectures, readings and films, and for any announcements made in class. Unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. Please drop me an email note if you are sick or otherwise unable to attend class. If you have a disability or any conflicts which may affect your class performance, please bring this to my attention immediately so that we can make arrangements for this to be a positive learning experience for you. Please let me know if you have suggestions for improving the class. I do not treat students as empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge; we need to be constituents rather than simply recipients of our education. Our goal is to challenge existing assumptions, engage alternative viewpoints, and encourage critical thinking. Through the study of history, we seek to empower ourselves to be better citizens and to provide ourselves with the skills necessary to play a positive and educated role in society.


Following are the required books for this class. Read the assignments before class so that you are prepared to carry on an intelligent discussion of the material in class. Lectures will complement the readings and assume the base level of knowledge which they present, so it is critically important that you keep up with the readings. Do not wait until the last minute to buy these books since about half-way through the semester the bookstore will return unsold copies to the publisher.

James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins; Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2d rev ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1963. ISBN: 0-679-72467-2

Keen, Benjamin and Keith Haynes. A History of Latin America, vol. 2, 7th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. ISBN: 0-618-31853-4

Gott, Richard. In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chávez and the Transformation of Venezuela. London: Verso, 2001. ISBN: 1859843654

Assignments and grades

Course grades will be based on the following assignments. You can check your grade progress in CourseInfo (there is a total of 1000 possible points in the class). More detailed information on the written assignments will be posted to the web page. I do not accept "drop and run" papers. Grades on late assignments will be penalized 10 percent for each day that they are late. Successful completion of all assignments is required to receive credit for this class.

Map quiz (Jan 27)
Haiti essay (Feb 15)
Midterm exam (March 10)
Venezuela essay (May 5)
Final exam (May 10)
Daily identification terms (5 pts ea.)
12 Newspaper article analyses (5 pts ea.)

40 pts.

The map quiz will require identification of 20 Latin American countries and their capitals, and will be taken on the Cinfo web page. The Haiti and Venezuela essays are to be three to five pages long, typed, double spaced, include citations, a bibliography, page numbers, and follow good essay form. Later I will post more elaborate descriptions of the questions you should address in the essays to the class web page. We will decide on the exact format of the midterm exam later, but it may include objective (multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc.) as well as identification or essay questions. The final exam is comprehensive and will include everything we have covered this semester. We will begin each class period with identifying and giving the significance of one identification term drawn from a list posted to the course web page for each of the assigned readings in the Keen/Haynes textbook. These will be graded on a scale of 1 to 5 points. One point means that you are present, 2 points indicate that something was fundamentally wrong with your response, 3 points indicate a rote response from the text, 4 points represent analytical thought, and 5 points are for responses that reveal critical thought that extends significantly beyond the text and places the term in a broad historical context. Each week by noon on Thursday (except for weeks 1 and 8), post an analysis of a newspaper article from the previous week on Latin America from one of the 3 daily newspapers distributed on campus (New York Times, St. Louis Post Dispatch, or USA Today) to the discussion board on the class webpage. Briefly describe the content of the article and then analyze its historical, social, and political significance. Be sure to include the title and author (if given) of the article, the name of the newspaper, and the date it was published, and the section/page numbers. Place the title of the article in the subject line of the post so that subsequent analyses on the same article are together in one thread. The critiques will be graded on a scale similar to the daily identification terms.

Class Schedule

Wk 1-2 (Jan 18-27) Introduction & Geography
Read: Keen/Haynes, Introduction and Part Two ("Latin America in the Nineteenth Century")
Jan Knippers Black, "Introduction: The Evolution of Latin American Studies," in Jan Knippers Black, ed., Latin America, Its Problems and Its Promise: A Multidisciplinary Introduction, 3rd ed. (Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1998), 1-17 (on reserve in the library or on the Cinfo page).
Assignment: Map quiz (due Thursday, Jan 27)

Wks 3-4 (Feb 1-10) Haiti
Read: James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins
Assignment: Haiti essay (Tuesday, Feb 15)

Wks 5-6 (Feb 15-24) Mexico
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 12 ("The Mexican Revolution")

Wk 7 (March 1-3) Andes
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 16 ("Storm over the Andes")

Wk 8 (March 8-10) Midterm review & exam

Wks 9-10 (March 22-31) Cuba
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 17 ("The Cuban Revolution")

Wks 11-12 (April 5-14) Chile
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 14 ("The Chilean Way")

Wks 13 (April 19-21) Central America
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 18 ("Revolution and Counterrevolution in Central America")

Week 14-15 (April 26-May 5) Venezuela
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 19 ("Lands of Bolívar")
Assignment: Venezuela essay (Thursday, May 5)

Final Exam: Tuesday, May 10, 11:30-1:20

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