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A Political History of Latin America Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Program Fall 2023 Semester - Early Start - Buenos Aires

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A Political History of Latin America

A Political History of Latin America Course Overview


CEA CAPA Partner Institution: CEA CAPA Buenos Aires Center
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Primary Subject Area: History
Other Subject Area: Political Science
Instruction in: English
Course Code: HIS351EZE
Transcript Source: University of New Haven
Course Details: Level 300
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 45
Prerequisites: Introductory courses in history or political science


In this course, you trace the history of Latin America from Pre-Columbian origins and European conquest to the dynastic and colonial times that lead to independence, the constitution of the nation-states, and the 20th century struggle for more inclusive and democratic societies under threat of military dictatorship.

You begin your investigation with an analysis of the most advanced Pre-Columbian societies, around the central valley of Mexico and the Peruvian Andes, at the end of the 15th century. Then, you examine the first steps of the Spanish Empire. From on the tiny Caribbean islands originally "found" by Christopher Columbus, the Conquistadores started the conquest and submission of those highly civilized Pre-Columbian societies. You will specifically focus upon the political and economic institutions of the new Spanish colonial order, established during the 16th and 17th centuries.

In the 18th century, a new dynasty came to power in Spain and with it, a new impulse for reform. The Borbones launched a reform of the economical and political institutions of their American empire. With new tools for appropriate ever more resources from the colonies, the Borbones sought to renew their own power as well as Spain's position in the European power theatre. The failure of these reforms and the constant deterioration of Spain's position following the Napoleonic invasions opened the door to a long period of revolution and wars of independence throughout the entire Spanish American Empire.

In this context of political turbulence, you will then analyze the complex situation faced by the new Latin American elites of Criollos as they struggled to constitute solid political unites, and build new economic links with European and the world markets. For most of these new nation-states, the new link, especially with the United Kingdom, found its theoretical foundation in the international division of labor. In this specific link, while Europe provided capital, investments and labor, Latin America offered its primary resources and a market for European goods. This new colonial order sustained the consolidation of national states in the second half of the 19th century.

In the second part of this course, you turn from a general view of sub-continental history to the analysis of specific national cases. The Mexican revolution pitted peasants against traditional elites, and latter supporting the populist experience of Lazaro Cardenas and the ultimate triumph of a new bourgeoisie. In the case of Chile, you examine a political system with populists and Christian Democrats as alternative political parties in power; and the exceptional experience of broken democratic way to socialism during the 1970s, followed by the dictatorship of Pinochet. The history of Cuba demonstrates how a late revolutionary war of independence against the colonial power was interrupted by the intervention of another foreign power. Then you focus on the socialist experience under Castro. Finally, you address the struggle between the Indians and the powerful oligarchy of landowners in Peru.

Your investigation concludes with the story of the relationship between Latin America and its powerful northern neighbor, the United States. You examine not only the impact of US policy in Central American, but also the complex and troubling influence the US has throughout the entire Latin American region, from the early days of Pan-Americanism, through the Cold War, and to the current stage of globalization.

The course invites you on a fascinating 500-year journey through the diverse, exciting and sometimes painful historical experience of Latin America.

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