BA History and Sociology

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
History of Latin America

Unit code SPLA20362
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Spanish, Portuguese and Latin
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit offers an introduction to Latin America’s past by addressing the ways in which subordinate or marginalised groups (particularly indigenous peoples, free and enslaved Africans and Afro-descendants, castas and women) adapted to different systems of oppression and exploitation between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. The unit focuses on the strategies and mechanisms through which these groups challenged, resisted, negotiated or accommodated Spanish and Portuguese rule and, subsequently, the changes brought about by independence and nineteenth-century Liberalism. By analysing the different means and aims through and for which marginalised groups exercised agency during colonial and post-colonial Latin America the unit explores the role these groups and individuals played in the construction of Iberian imperial rule and of post-independence nations.


  • To provide a general overview of the history of Latin America with a particular focus on the different responses of marginalised groups to the challenges created by both Spanish rule and post-independence national governments
  • To provide detailed knowledge of particular areas and periods of Latin American history
  • To develop awareness of the diversity of Latin American experiences and cultures, and of the importance of colonialism, slavery and race in shaping modern Latin American societies
  • To encourage the development of critical thinking, and group work skills
  • To improve students’ structure, coherence, clarity and fluency in written and oral expression

Teaching and learning methods

The majority of lectures for this course unit will be delivered online.

Knowledge and understanding

By successfully completing this unit students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a general understanding of the history of Latin America from the encounter to the nineteenth century
  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge of particular areas and periods in Latin American history
  • Show awareness of the cultural diversity and the complex historical experiences of Latin America
  • Show awareness of how subordinate groups contributed to shaping Spanish and Portuguese imperial rule and post-independence nations

Intellectual skills

By successfully completing this unit students will be able to:

  • Understand historiographical debates, identifying and explaining competing historical arguments
  • Formulate historical arguments backed by evidence
  • Approach historical sources critically, questioning them from a variety of perspectives and with different objectives

Practical skills

By successfully completing this unit students will be able to:

  • Plan and deliver a group presentation on a topic of Latin American history
  • Gather, organize and deploy evidence and information in forming an historical argument
  • Use the library to find appropriate physical and electronic resources and reference them correctly

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By successfully completing this unit students will be able to:

  • Evince improvement in their ability to communicate both orally and in writing with structure, coherence, clarity and fluency
  • Gather, organize and deploy evidence in marshalling an argument

Employability skills

The unit enhances skills of independent learning and research, analysis and evaluation of conflicting or contradictory opinions in the process of reaching informed judgements, and written reporting. The unit also requires students to reflect on how different motivations and cultural backgrounds lead to different experiences of and reactions to the same events, encouraging the development of cultural awareness, empathy and respect for different viewpoints.

Assessment methods

Primary Source Analysis - 25%

Essay - 50%

Group Presentation - 25%


Feedback methods

Written feedback on group presentation - Formative & Summative

Written feedback on primary source analysis - Formative & Summative

Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hours or by making an appointment) at the students' request

Recommended reading

  • Hassig, Ross, ‘War, Politics and the conquest of Mexico’, in War in the Early Modern World 1450-1815, ed. by J. Black (London: UCL press, 1999), pp. 207-235.
  • Baber, Jovita, 'Empire, Indians, and the Negotiation for the Status of City in Tlaxcala, 1521-1550', in Negotiation within Domination: New Spain's Indian Pueblos Confront the Spanish State, ed. by Ethelia Ruiz Medrano and Susan Kellogg (Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2010), pp. 19-44.
  • Smith, Matthew, 'Laboring to Choose, Choosing to Labor: Coercion and Choice in the Potosi Mita', Past Imperfect 10 (2004): 21-44.
  • Glave, Luis Miguel, ‘The “Republic of Indians” in Revolt (c.1680-1790)’, in The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, ed. by  F. Salomon and S. Schwartz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), Vol. III, part 2, pp. 502-57.
  • Owensby, Brian P., 'How Juan and Leonor Won Their Freedom: Litigation and Liberty in Seventeenth-Century Mexico', Hispanic American Historical Review 85 (2005), pp. 39-79.
  • Lokken, Paul, 'Marriage as slave emancipation in seventeenth-century rural Guatemala', The Americas 58 (2001), pp. 175-200.
  • Ducey, Michael, ‘Village, Nation, and Constitution: Insurgent Politics in Papantla, Veracruz, 1810-1821,’ Hispanic American Historical Review 79 (1999), pp. 463-93.
  • Sanders, James E., ‘“Citizens of a Free People”: Popular Liberalism and Race in Nineteenth-Century Southwestern Colombia’, Hispanic American Historical Review 84 (2004), pp. 277-313.
  • Cowling, Camillia, ‘Negotiating Freedom: Women of Colour and the Transition to Free Labour in Cuba, 1870-1886’, Slavery & Abolition 26 (2005), pp. 377-391
  • Deere, Carmen Diana, and Magdalena Leon, 'Liberalism and Married Women's Property Rights in Nineteenth-Century Latin America', Hispanic American Historical Review 85 (2005), pp. 627-678.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Francisco Eissa Barroso Unit coordinator

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